Keep Smiling

Someone said to me ‘do a blog to make me smile’. I went away and though about it. Science tells us that it takes seventeen muscles to smile and as many as forty three to frown. That means it takes a lot more effort to be miserable than it does to be happy. So, what it is that makes some people happy while others are not. So what does the science tell us.

Money. Many people consider higher per capita income is a precursor to happiness. Having sufficient resources to survive with comfort and to feel that there is no stress can certainly a part of happiness. However having more money than you need does not actually make you happy. We joke that at least with money ‘you can be miserable in comfort’ but it proves that money will never make you happy. It is said to say that I have worked with so many people who are very rich and very miserable. I guess we need enough money so that we don’t have to worry about it but so much that we do have to worry about it. For many people too much money is a burden.

Health plays an enormous part in happiness. Health creates greater life expectancy, less time off work and more time to be happy. When we exercise we have higher levels of happy hormones in our brain. We know that raising your heart rate for just twenty minutes a day can really support your mental health.

Autonomy is important. People’s freedom to make life decisions is a part of creating their individual happiness. So many people do what they do because they feel that they should or to please other people. This approach to life seldom leads to happiness. It is so important to do things that make you feel good.

Generosity in both giving and receiving raises the spirit. I can remember when I was training reading the research about how the effect of giving could create more positive endorphins in the giver than those in the receiver. It seems that giving makes us feel good. 

Belonging. We all need friends, family and social support that creates a sense of belonging and overcomes loneliness. Happiness does not need to come from big social events. Often it is the small ones, the family gatherings, Sunday lunches and so on that make us feel like we belong. 

Happiness consists more in small conveniences of pleasures that occur every day than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom”. Benjamin Franklin 

The Vikings left us with happiness. So what is the secret?

Genetics, in Scandinavians are shown to have a particular effect. There are three genes that, when activated, create increased levels of serotonin which is the natural precursor of wellbeing. Now, any country that, in history, was near to or invaded by the Vikings have this genetic structure, Guess what? British people have a genetic structure that is very close to that of the vikings. So why are us Brits not showing our happiness, rather than moaning about our lives? Or Are us Brits happier than we let on?

All these issues, beyond that of genetics, are considered by scientists to be too subjective, too emotional. Associate professor Wataru Sato and his team at Japan’s Kyoto University went one step further into trying to understand the basis of happiness. The researchers used scans to determine which areas of the brain are involved in people feeling happy. The results showed that volunteers who rated highly on happiness surveys had more grey matter (cells) in their brains.

MEDITATION/MINDFULNESS

Now, this is the magic part of this research. We know how we can increase the grey matter in our brains, we meditate. Brains scans have shown, for years, that mindful meditation increases the grey matter in the brain, especially around the areas that control our emotional experience in the limbic system. the bottom line is:  

It does not matter how good your life is materially, 

if you do not have enough grey  brain cells 

it will never feel good enough inside your emotions 

So, what we have learned is that if we do have a genetic predisposition to happiness we might be ahead of the game, and that the nearer we are to Scandinavia the more likely we are to have a positive genetic makeup. But that is not the end of it. We now know, from the scientific research, built around brain scans, shows that if you regularly meditate you will create more grey matter in your brain, ( it takes about two years of daily practice) and we know that more grey matter equal more positive control of our emotional self. In short it creates happiness.

The bottom line is that we all need to meditate and that we need to practise meditation persistently and consistently on a daily basis over time. If you know an experienced meditator you will be aware of their calmness and lack of stress. You may also be aware of their general efficiency is their work and their happiness in their life generally.

Devote some time to yourself, be happy and, if you can, try some meditation.

Take care

Sean x

   

Is it time to change the day job?

Following on from the last episode I had a conversation with a group of workers who have decided to do something different. The group discussion got into the fear of staying where they are as opposed to the fear of change and owing something different. It would seem that one of the lessons gained from Covid over the last two years is that life is short and we need to get the best out of it that we can. This raised a lot of conversation about fears and inhibition. In the end of the twelve that were there about a third who decided that it was too scary to change, a third who were scared to stay as they are and a third who couldn’t decide. It was the younger ones who were more open to the idea of change and chancing a new way of life.

  What would be your dream job? 

If you could do what ever job you wanted what would it be?

Ed and I both feel like we are doing our dream jobs. We both love what we do and really enjoy the process of being alive. I always say that if you can wake up with a smile on your face and go to bed with a smile on your face then you have cracked it, you have got your life right.

The thing is that most of us do what we do because we feel that we have little and that we have no choice. At school most people are pushed to go in a certain way that the education system believes they will be good at. Or maybe it is security. When I was a kid I was told that if you worked in a bank, for the police, in health or as a teacher you will have a job for life. Well, that might be so true these days but back then people grabbed the jobs that was seen as safe and secure and hung onto them until retirement. That was true even if they hated the job, and they often did.

I have worked with so many people who not only hate their work life but don’t like their home life that much either. We can becomes trapped by those wonderful British attitudes…

‘Better the devil you know’

‘Leopard can’t change it’s spots’

‘Old dogs can’t learn new tricks’

‘Don’t throw away dirty water until you have clean’

‘Won’t be long it will be Friday’

‘It could be worse’

‘Why change, no one cares anyway’

‘The grass isn’t always greener’

…..this list goes ever on.

It has always been surprising to me how many people are not happy with their lives as they have been living them and yet they continue to do so year after year. Covid seems to have brought this into focus for a lot of people and the desire to change seems to be growing and turning into action. I have more people telling me that they are changing their jobs and I have teams struggling because their main experience base has left.

I believe that we can all find a way of living that works for us. And, if we are prepared to work at it we can find our dream life and our dream job.

For me it was the decision that whatever I would do with me life I would only do it if it made me happy. When I was honest with myself the two things that made me really happy was working with people and playing music and since the beginning of the 1980s that is exactly what I have done.

I couldn’t say that I have a dream job because I don’t feel like I go to work. I simply wake up with a smile on my face and get on with my life and I love it. The pleasure of working with people and watching them flower and discover who they really is a joy beyond words. That is even true of those that are the slow burners and take a very long time to change.

We all deserve to be happy and fulfilled. First, if you need to decide what would make you feel happy and fulfilled. Second, you need to gather the resources around you that you enable that change to take place. Third, you need the courage to dare yourself to be different and become what you would like. 

As they say, ‘who dares wins’.

Be happy and live your dream

Take care

Sean x

We don’t have to be disappointed

A listener asked us to look at the effects of personal disappointments. Coming out of Covid they have trying to get a new job. They were asking what to do when the job interview doesn’t go so well or when they feel let down in other areas of their life? This raises the issues of competition and the idea of winners and losers. At the moment it can be easy to feel like a loser. In tough competition we often see it as the survival of the fittest. Then we can feel like we are the weak one. The reality is that in a competitive world disappointment is just a fact of life. You can’t have one without the other. Currently there may be two hundred people going for one job. That means there will be a lot of disappointed people.

But there are alternatives to feeling bad and disappointed about it 

To be disappointed you first have to buy into the concept of wining and losing, of gain and loss. These concepts involve the separation of ‘us’ and ‘them’ or ‘you’ and ‘me’. For ‘me’ to win or succeed ‘you’ have to lose or fail’. If ‘we’ win ‘they’ lose. These tribal separations are the seed of all conflicts and wars be it religious, sexual, ideological, sectarian, ethnic or whatever. Just look at the Russia Ukraine stand off. Who will win? Who will lose? Is it possible that they can both win? Or, is it possible that they both lose?

You can’t be disappointed without your permission.

In the personal sense for ‘me’ to succeed at the interview and get the job ‘you’ will be disappointed. On the other hand you ‘you’ get the job then ‘I’ will be disappointed. Unless we begin to see this process of winning and losing in a different way. Perhaps these things that I identify as disappointments are actually good things.

We don’t have problems we just have learning opportunities 

My own assumption is that the universe is not out to get me ( I don’t think that it is) and that the things that I am presented with are for my own growth and development then I can learn and grow. I am not a fatalist I believe in free will but I do get the law of attraction and see that the things that happen to me do so because they are meaningful to me and my own level of development. I see the same things as true for you also. In this way nothing is ever bad. It is my response to what happens that labels it as either good or bad.

What if I didn’t get the job because, in the greater scheme of things, it would have been damaging to me or the wrong direction for me, maybe it would have held me back and not allowed me to develop to do even greater things? If this were the case the fact that I didn’t get the job should be a focus of celebration and thanks not one of disappointment and loss.

To be disappointed assumes… 

1: Expectation. This is craving, my demand for the outcome that my ego seeks. When we project forward in expectation of outcomes, be they good or bad, we are firing up our anxiety circuits. Learning to see the things that happen in life not as problems but as learning opportunities then our anxiety dissolve. If you consider that the human race has survived because we each have this amazing problem solving ability that, should we need it, will come to our aid and solve whatever the issues is that we are faced with. If we see it this was it is true that…

…we don’t have problems we have learning opportunities.

2: Loss. This is attachment, my inability to let go of my feelings of possession for things, people, events or the belief of what I saw as ‘mine’. It could be that I saw the job as ‘mine’ before I went to the interview. This attachment to the past creates depression. When we feel the loss or bereavment for what was, or for what might have been we often ruminate. When this happens the rumination keeps it negatively alive, so that many years after an event it can still feel like it is live action, as though it has just happened.

When we learn to let go we overcome depression and  and stop projecting into the future we can then live in the present. In the present, in the now there can never be any disappointment because there is no attachment to the past and there is no carving for the future. The trick to living in the present is gratitude. The following is attributed to Buddha.

Let us rise up and be thankful, 

for if we didn’t learn a lot today, 

at least we learned a little, 

and if we didn’t learn a little, 

at least we didn’t get sick, 

and if we got sick, 

at least we didn’t die; 

so, let us be thankful.

At the end of each line of the above the option is to be disappointed or grateful. It is not what happens it is the way that we see it. We are not effected by events but by our response to those events.

In a very real sense being disappointed is a choice. What do you choose?

Take care

Sean X

Doubt and Fear – Living with Uncertainty

I have an Auntie who at the age of 94 remains so amazingly positive. She has a natural habit of positivity that will not allow anything to get her down. She genuinely sees the things that happen to her as lessons for her to learn and listening to her she has certainly been tested in her life. She has a very strong faith that certainly underpins her attitudes in life. She has the positive habit.

Doubt and fear are both forms of anxiety and worry. We know that worrying is a habit as is being happy. If you are a worrier, or if you are happy, then you were not born like it, where did you learn it? These like all habits are the results of consistent persistent practice over time. Most habits are learned at an early age through observation. We observe behaviours, usually from our parents or siblings and then we practise them and make them our own.

What you feed grows and what you starve dies

Habits can be either cognitive or affective, they are what we think or what we feel. Some psychology suggests that we learn the thinking part first and that leads to the negative feelings of worry. Others would suggest that the feelings lead to the negative thoughts. For me me it can be either, though it is usually a mixture of both. 

Sometimes we just feel lousy, anxious or concerned but we don’t know what about. Carl Jung described this as ‘something within us yet outside of our control’. When we just feel bad we can search for a reason and attach a negative thought process to it that makes sense of it. Once we have attached the thought to that feeling they are forever connected so that when we feel it we think it and when we think it we feel it.

Mindfulness allows you to observe doubt and worry and not take it on board 

Odd as it may seem we can make anxious associations with the strangest of things it may be a banana or the colour blue, a sound, smell or the tone of someone’s voice. Once we have linked thoughts and feelings together they have a symbiotic relationship that is there forever unless until we wake up to what we are doing and uncouple them. 

Mindful practise helps us disconnect our negative links

The first step in developing mindfulness to overcome worrying is to become the observer of yourself, so that ‘I’ can observe ‘me’ thinking, feeling or doing. When we observe we can begin to see the distortions of our thinking feeling and doing that are creating our anxiety, worry, and stress. Often these are unconscious distortions that, through mindfulness, can become conscious and then we can deal with them.

So, first step is learn to observe your distortions…

Common Distortions

ref: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/anxiety_self_help.htm (Thanks for the site guys, a great resource)

All-or-nothing thinking – black-or-white – Life or death. Where are always the shades of grey? Life is never black and white, there will always be a compromise, a third point of view, another way of doing it. It is only by standing back and observing our thinking and feeling that we can move beyond this fixation. Or we can ask other people for their perspective and gain further insight.

Overgeneralisation – “it will always be like this…I’ll never be able to…it always happens to me…” I call this scripting. The habit of thinking this way leads to repeated behaviours. Life becomes a done deal. As soon as I make these statements I am ensuring that they will come true and that my life will be forever blighted. If I wake in the morning with the idea “Oh no not again”, guess what kind of day I am about to have.

Negative focus – The magic of our perception is that we finely tune it so that we only see what we expect to see. This can be the glass half full or half empty. A clean car, with a patch of dirt, can be seen as filthy, a good person who make a simple mistake can be seen as bad and so on. When you tread in a soggy cow pat do you see that as a good opportunity to grow or do you get angry and beat yourself up? When we focus positively all and every experience teaches us about ourself and life. When life is faced positively there is no negative focus.

We don’t have problems we have learning opportunities

Discount the positive – This is magical because when we discount the positive we ensure that nothing will ever be any good.  We either come up with reasons why positive events don’t count. “I did well, but that was just dumb luck.” or ” I hate it when good things happen because that means that something negative is just around the corner”. This is the time to stand back, reframe your thoughts and feeling create a new script for the situation and say it out loud so that your ears can hear it. “I love when good things happen. It means there is more good coming my way”.

Jumping to conclusions – Even when what is happening is plainly positive we can make negative interpretations without any actual evidence and without even realising that we are doing it. We can act like a mind reader, “I can tell she/he secretly hates me.” Or like a fortune teller, “I just know something terrible is going to happen.” “I just know we are going to miss the plane.” Ask yourself the question why? Why should these bad things happen to you and not other people? Most importantly what evidence do you have of things working well? Observe the positive and repeat it to yourself as positive reinforcement.

Catastrophizing – It is easy to make a drama out of a crisis. Expecting the worst-case scenario to happen. “The pilot said we’re in for some turbulence. The plane’s going to crash!” A classic is a medical diagnosis when we convince ourself of the worst outcome. In life difficult things will always happen. However, evolution and equipped us with some pretty good creative skills that enable us to solve problems. If you can make a cup of tea you are a creative genius and, if you make a cup of tea you can solve a problem. 

Emotional reasoning – This is when the feeling clearly comes before the thought and we seek to make a connection and association between the feeling and the thought. Just like believing that the way we feel reflects reality. “I feel frightened right now. That must mean I’m in real physical danger.” It might even be “she just told I am a bad person therefore it must be true.” Just because you feel something or someone says something it does not mean that it is true. Being able to observe your feelings and thought associations that you have made and questioning them rather than accepting them can lead to new levels of understanding and self development.

‘Should’s and should-nots’ – In my consulting room there are certain words that are banned. These are ‘ought, should, must and can’t, together with ought not, should not, must not’. Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do is like beating yourself up. Often these things are related to what other people want or need and may have little to do with meeting our own needs. It is good to look at why you believe these things, what is going on? Where did you learn to think that way? Could have been a parent or sibling? This is a good time to look at reframing your thoughts and feelings, update them so that they can now serve you better.

Labelling – I resist giving people a diagnoses. A diagnosis is a label and once we become labelled we become limited by that label, both in our owns eyes and in the eyes of others. My father labelled me as an ‘idiot’ and for many years I believed him. Later, in therapy, I realised that this was his issue and not mine and I relabelled myself positively, “I am clever and can do things”. Labelling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings such as “I’m a failure; an idiot; a loser,” just creates negative scripts that you will play out in everyday life.

Personalisation – This may also be described as taking other people’s stuff onboard so that it becomes ‘my’ issue when it is not. It is when we assume responsibility for things that are outside of our control. “It’s my fault my son had an accident. I should have warned him to drive carefully in the rain.” “its my fault he got lung cancer I should have stopped him smoking.” We can not live other people’s lives like they are our own.

Worry and Doubt

Worry and doubt comes in many shapes and sizes. Importantly all of the versions described above are all habitual behaviours and like all habits they can be changed. 

If you follow the Live In the Present course as set out in our blogs and podcasts you will soon realise that to change a habit permanently normally involves a ninety day programme of consistent and persistent determination. All habits can be changed.

When you suffer from worry or doubt it is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD. Rumination on anything will make it bigger and bigger. It follows that rumination on positive things will lead to positive feelings and happiness. So…

don’t worry, don’t doubt, be positive and be happy

Take care

Sean x

Surviving The Winter

Well, it is cold. Winter is upon us once again. With Covid it seems to have been a long time coming. Last year the warm weather stretched out into November that got us all talking about global warming. Then, suddenly with ferocity the weather has changed and we are in the grip of floods, tsunamis and even winter forrest fires. With global warming we were promised warm dry summers and cool wet winters and that is exactly that is what we have.

Many of the people I talk with are feeling a flat fatigue. This is true of those who have had and who have not had Covid. It is as though our battery is flat and needs charging. Our energy always changes between the seasons just feel that this year covid has made it so much bigger. There is a stark contrast between the world in the warmth of the summer and that in the cold of the winter. One of the main things that we don’t realise is the effect that we feel from the ionisation of the air around us. Each atom has an electrical charge on it. When the charge is negative then we feel bright and light and energised. When the charge is positive we feel flat, oppressed and out of steam. In the winter the air is often filled with positive irons that can make us feel negative. It is those days that are grey and over cast with the damp chill that reaches into you bones the air is filled with positive ions. When you are on a side of a mountain with clear blue sky’s watching the sun glint on the snow the air is filled with negative ions. It seems back to front but…

Positive ions make you feel bad

Negative ions make you feel good  

As water meet the air ions are released. In an energetic splashing there are streams of negative ions given off. These make us feel brighter and awake. The effect happens by rivers, the sea, fountains and most commonly the shower that wakes us up in the morning. A bath, on the other hand, where the water is hot and still there are lots of positive ions given off that may make us feel relaxed but also can make us sleepy. 

The other winter effect is the lack of sun light. This leads to the inevitable drop in our level of Vitamin D. This leads to a change in our brain chemistry. A drop in our level of vitamin D leads to a drop in the level or serotonin, the happy hormone. This normally, leads to feelings of down-ness and flatness often described as SAD syndrome. Sometimes I wonder why, in evolution, we bothered to move away from the equator where levels of vitamin D are high and SAD syndrome never heard of.

When it gets cold, damp and dark we seek the comfort that through evolution has been supplied by carbohydrates. Carbs make the brain secrete serotonin. In the winter we self medicate with carbs and tend to put weight on. The best form of carbs is in cake, bread, pastas, puddings, biscuits, and so on. Carbs kick your brain into producing endorphins that make you feel good which is why they are called comfort food.

Carbs = comfort

Take a holiday

I know we have all the restrictions of covid but why do we take our main holiday in the summer? Would it not make more sense to enjoy the British summer, even if it is a bit wet, and then, when it is dark and cold, jump on a plane and go somewhere hot and sunny. If we did that we would boost our Vitamin D and keep our mood raised up.

Exercise

Another way to counteract the effect of the darkness is to move more. When it is cold the idea of huddling around a coal/log fire and staying in becomes very attractive and comforting. Yet this can increase our intake of comfort food and maybe the odd drink. We can become lazy. However, if we make the effort to move our body we can raise our mood and feel better. Twenty minutes of raised heart rate will make your brain secrete happy hormones and endorphins that will make you feel happier. The drive from the health authorities is to get everyone walking for at least half an hour a day or the classic 10,000 step. If we all did this we would reduce our levels of illness, improve our mental health, loose some weight and get happier. Of course it goes without needing to say it that it would also save the health authorities a lot of money. Maybe with covid it would also lessen the demand on NHS services.

Time to get social

Don’t be a hermit, Covid permitting, get out and meet people or invite people into your home. Socialise, have parties, cook meals and enjoy the company of others. Being with others, sharing the feeling of belonging and sharing fun and laughter all increase our levels of happy hormones. We are naturally hunter gatherers who live and interact in social groups. They do not live alone in small family units in little boxes they are a natural social community.

Get social and get some exercise

As Ed would tell us we all need to get out more walking and cycling. Apart from any direct physical health benefits this might bring it also helps us recreate our communities as we can directly interact with our neighbours and community members. This is something that is impossible when we are stuck in the car.

Make love

Did you know that when we have a particularly dark and cold winter the birth rates can rise by up to 18%. The joke always was that a couple go to bed early to save candles and money and end up having more children. However, we do know that good positive love making does increase our endorphins and increases our happiness. It also helps us to keep warm on a cold night and save on the heating.

Slow down and enjoy

It is natural to slow down and sleep more in the winter. Most of nature takes a break in the winter. The birds fly south, all of the plants go to sleep and many animals go into hibernation. The one species that does not slow down that carries on in a mad dash is us, human beings. We have stopped living in the natural rhythm of nature and life. As hunter gatherers we would have gone to sleep when it got dark and woken up when it got light. We now go to work in the dark come home in the dark, work crazy shifts for excessive hours and for many day never see the sun and then we wonder why our vitamin D level is low. This maybe a good time to get a vitamin test from your GP and perhaps take a supplement if you need it. 

If we were living in the natural rhythms of nature winter would be our chance to rest and relax and restore ourselves for the hard work in the spring ahead. A time to gather around log fires and get Hyyge. A time to enjoy the joy of story telling, socialisation, and developing family relationships and friendships. A time to mend nets, repair the tools, learn to sew and knit and chat about life and sharing experiences, learn our own history and teach and learn new skills. A time to enjoy winter foods, puddings custard and cake.

The more I think about it the more I see why the Nordic countries developed their various versions of Hyyge to live enjoy and survive their short winter days.

Be happy and do what you need to ensure you enjoy your winter and make it a winter wonderland for you and those around you.

Take care

Sean x

Blue Monday

Every January we have what is described a Blue Monday that’s is said to be the saddest day of the year. A questionable claim. But why would we get depressed at this time of year? Well we have just been through the joy of Christmas and New Year, probably have credit card debt to clear, have given up the booze for dry January and are trying to get back into work/school mode. Plus it is dark and cold and the summer holiday can feel a long way off. But hey ho this year we have even or weight on the blue shoulders because we have the ongoing Covid as well and we could throw in the BoJo nonsense for good measure. But it is not all bad. There is a good side to depression we just have to realise it.

Depression may be our brain’s way of telling us to stop, 

slow down and solve problems

There is a theory that suggests that rather than being a problem depression might be a specific behavioural strategy that we have evolved as a biological adaptation that serves a purpose. As Matthew Hutson agrees and explains in a Nautilus feature on the potential evolutionary roots of depression and suicidal behaviour , that the purpose of depressions might be to make us… 

…stop, understand, and deal with an important problem.

Figures for the USA, which are probably reflected in Europe, suggest that at any given time, about 5% of people report symptoms of moderate or severe depression. Major depressive disorder is now so common that at some point in life, one in six people  will suffer from it.

So why does such a debilitating condition strike so many people? 

The traditional understanding is that depression is just a breakdown in the normally working of the brain. This is seen as a chemical imbalance that is treated by chemical medication designed to balance chemistry, change mood and create shifts in  behaviours.

Could depression have developed to help us?

Evolutionary psychologist Paul Andrews and psychiatrist J. Anderson Thomson first elaborated on this idea, called the “analytical rumination hypothesis,” in an article published in Psychological Review in 2009.

Their idea is that what we think of as a disorder is actually a way for our brains to analyse and dwell on a problem in the hopes of coming up with a way to deal with it. The researchers suggest it’s possible that a difficult or complex problem triggers a “depressive” reaction in some people that sends them into a sort of analytical mode. 

This intrigues me greatly because in the Ayurvedic model, my original training, depression was seen as a gift, as a way of our system telling us that something was wrong and giving us the chance to sort it out. This would explain the increased rumination that arising in depressive episodes. Along side this in and increase in dream sleep. The two phases of sleep are deep sleep (NREM) and dream sleep (REM). It is assumed that deep sleep is the resting phase concerned with repair of the body and dream sleep is an active phase concerned with processing experience and emotion. In depression the dream sleep eats into the deep sleep so that despite sleeping for long periods of time the person does not experience rest and may become progressively more tired.

The concept that depression might be and evolutionary adaptation rather than a mental disorder is not the main consensus of the mental health community. in reality it cannot be true for all depression. It would be true for those suffered get reactive depression in response to a trauma or traumatic stimulus. Even so this could still account for around 80% of depressive episodes.

The problem is that in most cases depression is not the cause it is the symptomatic response to the cause. In western medicine we tend to treat the symptom and pay little ot no attention to the cause. 

It could be that if we accepted depression asa gift and took the opportunity to undertake a self audit to enable us to get our lives back on track. Instead we treat depression negatively as a problem and medicate the symptoms and fail to deal with the cause. It would make sense that if alongside medication we engaged in mindful therapy we could speed up treatment and help to dissolve depressive episodes.

MBCT

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy is designed to deal with and overcome issue of reactive or repetitive depression. MBCT, is recommended by the United Kingdom’s National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the prevention of recurrent and reactive depression and has also been shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of anxiety.

Take care and be happy

Sean x

Becoming a therapist

The question is are therapist born or are they trained? Well, reality is that some people are naturally caring, empathic but also objective enough to be n atrial therapists. Therapy, support has been around throughout evolution it did not begin just because someone create a training course. Many people train as therapist though the value of the training will vary greatly. This maybe to do with the quality of the training program itself or the quality of the people delivering it.

Personal therapy, especially since Covid, has to the the growth industry of the next fifty years. That is both good and bad. Yes we need more therapist just as we need a more caring nurturing attitude to each other in life. However, many therapist that are trained become booked learned theorists who understand the cognitive bit but do not have the empathic, sensitivity needed to be a good therapist. Actually sensitivity can be learned. The problem is that the courses do not do that. Their interest is in the academic process. 

I have completed four degrees and a plethora of diplomas and certificates. In doing so I have met so many therapists and trainee therapists. Sadly some lacked the necessary sensitivity and empathy to enable them to be, in my terms, ‘a good’ therapist. This is often true of cognitive behavioural therapists, not all but many, that are trained in a logical technical method of attempting to get people to understand themselves. However, CBT is often only truly effective for cognitive issues but has little lasting longterm effect on emotional issues.

The point I am getting to is that just because some has a degree or a diploma in therapy it does not mean that they are any good. There are many lay therapists out there helping people. They may have no qualifications at all and yet they are doing phenomenal and truly life changing work. The thing that is really is the true training needed to create a good therapist is not taught on a course. the real training comes from living that thing called ‘life’. Those people that have worked through their own difficulties and issues, have faced and overcome their own problems have a natural empathy for others that are in emotional pain. Unless someone has an exceptional imagination the only way to true understanding is through life experience. 

So why train?

They way I see it is that a good training programme will make a natural therapist even better. It will explain mental, emotional and psychological processes in a coherent way that will enhance the naturally ability and understanding of the practitioner. If we are to practise professionally we all need a coherent theoretical model to relate back to. We need to understand developmental processes, defence mechanisms and so on. So, yes all therapist need to be trained. Though we have to realise that a training program will enhance the abilities of the natural therapist allowing them to put what they already know in a system and of course they will learn new things and skills. Training will only make a purely cognitive mind and full living manual of theoretical knowledge to be shared as therapy. I am not saying that you can’t learn from courses or that you have to experience everything in human experience yourself before you can help other people with it. I am saying that when you have, or are developing, insight and empathy you can empathise with another person’s emotional experience and be a useful therapist. 

Yes get trained.

Finding a therapist

When it come to finding a therapist the best way is by word of mouth, recommendation. Good therapists rarely advertise as they have little need to as they normally have a full diary and may even have a waiting list.

Becoming a therapist 

If your are considering becoming a therapist, as I suggested you may be doing it anyway, a good thing to try are the ten week introduction courses that are run by colleges that also run certificate and diploma courses. This will give you a good insight in both the counselling process and the techniques required. You will them be able to make a choice as to what direction you would take from there.

If you would like to ask anything or chat anything through drop me a message and I will get back to you.

Take care and be happy

Sean x

Road Safety Week (India January 11th)

I know this is a subject that is very close to Ed’s heart. As we enter this new year let us do it safely.

Raising awareness of road safety seems so obvious and so necessary. There was a time when children were taught to ride bikes at school. This led to the Cycling Proficiency Test that was a test given by Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. This training   served as a minimum recommended standard for cycling on British roads. We even got a shiny badge once we had passed.

It was superseded by the National Standards for Cycle Training, branded “Bikeability”, in England in 2007. 

I am not sure at how successful it has been as an announced was mad in 2020.

“The government has today (7 February 2020) announced all children in England will be taught the skills for a lifetime of cycling, as its Bikeability training programme is significantly expanded.”

If this was to be expanded in 2020 I wonder, with Covid, how many schools have actually managed to reintroduce cycling classes for their pupils?

From my own experience I have found that car drivers who stared off as bike riders when they were kids are generally safer and have a greater awareness of other road users when they get older. Awareness and awakeness is the key to reducing the risk to people using the road network of being killed or seriously injured. The users on the road include pedestrians, cyclists,  motor cyclists, motorists, their passengers, and passengers of on-road public transport, mainly buses and trams.

Important Traffic Rules To Follow To Ensure Safety While Driving

  • Always wear a seatbelt.
  • Avoid distractions.
  • Do not cross the speed limits.
  • Service your car regularly.
  • Follow traffic signals.
  • Maintain lane discipline.
  • Be careful during bad weather.
  • Maintain a safe distance.

The bottom line to all this is that we need to get out of cars and walk and cycle. It is then that we become in touch with the real environment rather than the metal bubble that we live in when we are driving a car. The research on the benefits of walking and cycling are legion. There is a measurable increase in wellbeing from feel good endorphins to cardiac function, cognition and being happy.  

As a kid on the council estate us kids would all tip out in the morning and thousands of us would walk to various schools. I guess that we were all street wise and new the rules of the road and that kept us safe. I am not sure at what point we decided that it was unsafe out there and that we had to take our kids everywhere in our cars but what we have created is generations of people who have never interacted in a simple way on the road and have only ever really seen it through the windscreen of a car.

I think that in the end road safety comes from education and in this case it is learning from doing. We need to walk our kids to school, cycle to them to the shops so that they can see what it is like to be a road user – not just a car driver or passenger.

So, maybe our collective New Years resolution should be to get out of the cars always and cycle and educate our kids to become good a responsible road users.

Happy new year and travel safely

Sean x

New Years Resolution’s 2022

     “What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.”

According to JW von Goethe if you never start what needs to be one you will never finish if. An evident truth that we often avoid through distraction and displacement. 

Happy Covid New Year

However your Christmas has been and however it has been effected by Covid we are into the New Year. The past is behind us and it is time to move on. It maybe that this is the year that we accept Covid as a part of our annual life and that we get used to the idea of yearly vaccinations alongside the flu job. Accepting that there will always be the naysayers and conspire at theorists who will refuse the jabs most people will comply and hopefully this infections, and the others that I am sure will come, can be held at bay.

So, let’s move forward positively

What will you resolve to do, make different or achieve in this magical year of 2022?

New Years resolutions require of us. that we let go of all the emotional baggage that we are carrying from last year to enable us to move forward into the new year and our new achievements. So, let’s agree to put is all down now and leave it in the past.

Once you decide on your resolutions your goals will become within your reach. In fact deciding what you know where you want to go and what you wish to achieve is the difficult bit. The easiest bit is achieving them. It is a simple process. It just requires commitment and action on your behalf. The following steps might help you on your way…

1: Have clear goals – be sure about what it is that you specifically want to achieve. This is so important. Many people fail to achieve what the want because they are not clear at the outset. This what we would call the image.  

2: Write it down when you write something down you are reinforcing your intention to achieve it in your conscious mind. Repetition is very powerful. Every habit that you have ever developed, both positive and negative, are the result of repetition of thoughts and actions. 

3: Focus on one thing at a time – don’t allow yourself to become confused and overloaded, or distracted. Many people do not achieve what they really want because they try to do too much at the same time. This dilutes your attention, ability and energy and make you less effective.

4: Pick your tasks logically  – make a plan and stick to it. A wonderful phrase is ‘fail to plan and you plan to fail’. It does not take long at all to look at what needs to be done, what steps need to be taken. The steps are your plan. The time that it will take to take the steps is your time line. Once you have an image, a plan and a time line it is time to begin.

5: Ensure that your actions serve you well – Ask your self “What can I do right now that will bring me one step closer to my desired goal?” as often in the day as you can. To effect real and lasting change it need to be something that you are focussed on. Everything that you do in a day can take you nearer to your goal. Remember… 

what you feed grows and what you starve dies.

The more you feed your ideas and images the more successful they will become.

6: Educate yourself – Make sure you develop the knowledge and skills required to complete your goal. On your journey you will become aware of your deficits in skills and knowledge. There will be things that you will need to know. Do not be afraid to ask for help and assistence. There is little point in reinventing the wheel when other people have been through exactly the same process before you. We can learn from others mistakes.

7: Keep it simple  – start with simple tasks, worry about the difficult ones once you have got going. Pace yourself and be kind to your self. If your time line slips don’t beat yourself up just adjust your plan and your time line.

8: Ask advice from an listen to other people: Anything else that you need to know can be learned on the way. Keep talking and keep sharing. Most importantly listen to feed back. Feedback is a priceless gift, use it well.

Start now – don’t leave it until tomorrow 

Review and adjust – check if you are making progress?  If not review what you are doing and adapt it and move on. 

Be persistent and consistent – until the goal is completed. Things are only ever achieved through persistent and consistent action.

Any one can achieve anything if the approach it in the right way and remain persistent and consistent in their efforts.

Happy New Year and enjoy your achievements

Sean. x 

It’s Christmas time to see the light and the love

As we have gone through November and December this year I have found myself wearing sandals and a tee shirt… Something is wrong! It should be colder than it is and I should be wrapped up in a scarf with gloves and trying to keep warm. We are walking around the Marine Lake and I am wearing sunglasses. We keep saying to each other that ‘the weather is good today’ or is it? Is it really good for our winters to be getting so warm?

When the scientist predicted the idea of global warming they suggested ‘warm wet winters and cool dry summers’, they were right there. As people prepare for the floods  from the various storms this year the sand bags are out and people are fortifying their defences. Yet at the same time there are people on the equator digging ever deeper wells in order to find more water. It this odd? Has the world has gone mad? Or, is this the reality and the beginning of global warming.

The cycles of mother nature may have nothing to do with global warming and the role that mankind has played in warming the planet, who knows?, but there is something odd is happening.

But Christmas is Christmas and the solstice is the solstice.

It is time to see the growing light of the lengthening days and shortening nights. Following the darkness of winter, that has its depth at the winter solstice and the longest night, comes the lightening, as the days draw out.  This sense of the light coming to dispel the darkness has been ever present in the psychological cycle of the year.  The festivals of Solstice, (Yuletide), originally the three days around midwinters day, December 21st, was gradually superseded by Christmas or ‘Christmastide”.  In some parts of the pagan world the festival of ‘Yule’ lasted for twelve days which became the twelve days of ‘Christmastide’.

For many of us Christmas is magical time for our children who’s excitement and expectation is wonderfully infectious.  The tree full of lights sparkle in the darkness and many streets seem so bright that they must be visible from the moon. We love the light in the dark. It is like fireworks that give the burst of light against the darkness of the sky.

Symbolically, the magic of these festivals, at this time of year, is in the realisation of the coming of the light back to the world. Psychologically this is the development of awareness and understanding, as the light dispels the darkness, or symbolically, good dispels evil.  The symbol of the star shining over Bethlehem, as the light shining in the dark, is the same as the Chinese symbol Yin and Yang or the Hindu symbol of Hatha, both showing the relationship between the duality of consciousness and unconsciousness. Consciousness is the light that illuminate the darkness of unconsciousness. 

Christmas is, at its best, a time of light, of increasing awareness, of love and joy, of acceptance, and giving.  The gifts given to Jesus were represented in pagan ‘Yuletide’ by the gifts given by the farmers, and the people at the Yule feast, often these were animals that were sacrificed to God as an expression of gratitude for the coming of the light of the New Year. I have never been a lover of dark cold winters, and to know that the darkness is behind me and that ahead is the lighter warmer time of spring and the heat of summer becomes the light at the end of a tunnel.

Perhaps, individually we all have life issues that need to be resolved or worked through. The resolution of these is our journey from our darkness towards our light. Our emotional winter leads to our spring that in time will become the fullness of summer. This time of the year is my symbolic emotional and spiritual ending and rebirth in the new beginning that will become the new year.

We all deserve a new beginning. We all have the right and the power to make our lives good and right.

Enjoy the lightness and love of your festivities, be happy and merry and consciously let past go and allow yourself to move forward.

Have a wonderful Yuletide and a meaningful Christmastide

See you in the New Year

Sean x