The Importance of good mental health

 

 

brain photo

 

The Importance of good mental health

I just don’t get, I really don’t. It seems that society places physical health as a priority, but when it comes to the brain’s health this is somehow seen as different. The brain is still an organ of the body but due to it’s elusive nature and the subjectivity of it’s power (how we think differently from one another) it is treated differently.

When we are mentally healthy, we cope better with stress and we are more resilient. We take less sick days at work and therefore contribute to the economy more efficiently. Our relationships with others work better, we are more successful and we get more out of life. Despite this, tangible health issues still get the most attention.

Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are on the rise. Judging from the numerous people seeking counselling and psychological assistance alone, shows a disturbing picture of how many people feel they are barely clinging to their sanity. Lack of Government funding leaves many vulnerable people who self soothe by drinking too much or taking drugs to cope. Good mental health is the foundation of a society that functions well.

Mental health issues lead to physical ailments just as much as physical ailments lead to psychological issues. Stress can lead to eczema, headaches and digestive issues such as IBS.

We need to treat people holistically with NO division between physical and mental health. They are interconnected and influence each other. Just because we can’t always see and define mental anguish doesn’t mean it should receive any less attention. In my opinion it should possible even receive more. More attention to good mental health would automatically lead to better physical health.

Mandy X

 

Further information on mental and physical illness: http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/viewpoint/mentalphysicalhealth.aspx

Photo by PinkPersimon

Super self confidence

 

winner photo

5 Tips for Super self confidence

I am in a very fortunate position in that I meet a lot of clients from different walks of life with many varying stories. I am always fascinated about  where they have come from, the experiences that have most impacted them in life, as well as what it is exactly that they think will make them happy.

Part of using CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) involves setting up ‘experiments’ in everyday life for the purpose of challenging a clients inner life script – in other words, the beliefs that they hold about the world around them. Sometimes these beliefs aren’t entirely rational yet we believe them without question. This is often because we were made to believe things by our parents, teachers and from society in general.

For example: Many of hold the belief that if we are nice to others,then they will like us.

Often a belief takes the format of “if this…then that….”

My job is to help clients challenge their thoughts that are unhelpful. Thoughts that make us fearful, involve faulty assumptions and thoughts than limit our potential in life all deserve to be challenged.

What makes a person super confident?

Think of your brain as the Captain of the ‘ship’. The messages sent from your brain will determine your actions in life and the direction that your life will take. Are your messages positive and inspiring or do you put yourself down, criticise yourself and remind yourself regularly of why you aren’t good enough?

If you do this – you will never reach your true potential.

1) They believe the best about themselves

Super confident people like themselves. They know they aren’t perfect and that there’s always room for improvement but they start from a place of self acceptance. They focus on their strengths and regularly remind themselves of their achievements in life.

2) Their approach = Positive Expectancy

They expect good things to happen. They expect that others will like them as they see themselves as being good company. Super confident people have self doubt and experience failure just as everyone else does but they do not let these thoughts and experiences overwhelm them or define them. They keep perspective and always have the foundation of self acceptance to fall back on. They trust themselves to be able to overcome tough times.

3) They live a life that’s ‘inside-out’

Instead of getting all their validation and self worth from external sources, such as the praise and approval of others, people with super self confidence are adept at searching inwards for their strength and validation. Why should someone else’s opinion of you matter more than your own opinion of you? When you seek approval from others or need a flashy car, powerful job or partner to make you feel worthy, you are subscribing to a life that is ‘outside-in’. A very precarious way to receive validation that relies on the generosity of others and leaves you ultimately in a powerless position. Refer to points 1,2 and 4 to live a life that’s ‘inside-out’.

4) Possess unwavering self belief

Super confident people do not let self doubt rule them. They make risk assessments and they are realistic about their abilities but when they go for it, they give it their all. They are not easily swayed by the critics and the nay-sayers of the world. The ‘noise’ from others does not dilute their focus. Richard Branson is a good example of someone who has taken the path less travelled, been told he will not succeed and has continued despite this. Find your inner motivation, and self belief and remember that other’s do not always know better than you do. Believe and persist…

5) Know themselves well

Super confident people know themselves well – they are aware of what they are good at and use this to their advantage. They have goals and purpose and don’t live life on automatic, going through the motions without ever checking whether what they are doing actually makes them happy and is leading them in the right direction. They actively seek out people and experiences in line with their goals and purpose.

6) There’s no need to prove themselves to others

Continuing on from point 3 – super confident people pursue goals and live their lives according to their own interests and motivation. They don’t need approval from others and this isn’t their primary motivating factor. Super confident people like approval from others but this is secondary to their approval of themselves. They enjoy looking in the mirror and liking the person staring back at them. Their inner world takes precedence over the outer world, this is where they take their lead from.

Decide on having a great life. Take time to get to know yourself and tune in to the real you, the one before you were told by everyone else what is possible for you or what you should be doing with your life. Get centred, stay focused and keep faith in yourself. Your inner beliefs have the potential to create or destroy you. Make sure you choose them wisely.

Mandy X

 

Finding the balance

 

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Finding the balance

I was chatting to a friend recently about coping with stress in life. I mentioned how it is important to care about the world around us but sometimes when we care, we end up feeling grief and sadness at the awful state the world is in – animal cruelty, cruelty to children and the elderly, people taking advantage of others, lies, treachery, heartbreak….how long have you got?

Inevitably, we all build emotional barriers in order to cope with the negative occurrences in the world. We become hardened and desensitised to others and our empathy diminishes. I see many people who tune out and/or find ways to escape (alcohol, drugs, gambling, spending, excessive addictive behaviour) in order to deal with the hardships of life. This isn’t the solution either.

It got me thinking about how we are bombarded by so many experiences in life. We deal with positive and negative things but it seems that positive experiences don’t always seem to undo the negative experiences, especially later in life. Negative experiences seem to have a greater impact upon us and make us retreat.

I decided to come up with a few suggestions for staying neutral, trying to see the world with fresh eyes, like a child full of wonder but with the wisdom of experience…

1) Don’t generalise

Yes, there are some mean people out there but don’t allow them to ruin your faith in the human race. When we begin to believe that people are cruel and selfish, we unwittingly look for examples around us to confirm this belief. When we keep an open mind and try to see the good too, we will be more inclined to notice the good will and kindness that does exist in the world.

2) Do your bit

If you feel strongly about something (my particular passion is animal welfare and of course – mental health), do something about it. Donate to a charity and if there isn’t one, find out about doing some fundraising, or raise awareness of the issue via social media. Doing your little bit, no matter how small helps us to all feel we are making a difference. Stick to your values even when you feel your opinion will not be welcomed. We need more strong people in this world willing to speak up against injustice and unfairness. Don’t be a sheep.

3) Don’t make assumptions

When we’ve been hurt in life, it teaches us a lesson. We can use that constructively and learn from it or we can build those walls a little higher in an effort to protect ourselves in the future. This isn’t always the best strategy and it can end up leaving us isolated and empty. Instead, continue to engage with people, believe the best about them (unless they show you otherwise) and invite love into your life. Give others a chance, be brave and you might just be surprised at how many wrong assumptions you were holding.

4) Fill up your ‘reservoirs’

When we are happy and fulfilled, we tend to be more peaceful and content. When we are at peace and content, we tend to be more tolerant and open to others instead of bitter and cynical. Make sure you do things regularly that give you positive energy. This is a way to keep your reservoirs full – take up a hobby, get a pet, laugh with friends, exercise, take a walk in the sunshine, spend time with inspiring people, listen to music…whatever it is that makes you feel life is good. When we feel content inside, the negative times hold less sway over us.

5) Watch your thinking

Your thoughts create your reality. If your inner dialogue is negative, mistrustful and angry, your life will mirror this. The first step is catching the automatic negative thoughts that you have. Once you have started to identify some of these thoughts, do a reality check – where is the evidence?? Challenge your thinking and come up with alternative, more balanced ways to see yourself and the world. You get to choose your attitude and how you want to see the world much more than you realise.

Ask yourself what thoughts you need to have in order for something/someone to bother you less, mean less or upset you less. There is always another way to look at something and usually that balanced thinking will lead to more balanced emotions and behaviour.

Take your time, don’t react impulsively.

Finding the balance can seem like a work in progress, (I’m still working on it). Being too closed off and detached will leave you emotionally safer but I can guarantee you that you won’t be truly living. Being too tuned in will most likely lead us to insanity…finding the balance is possible though…we’ll get there in the end.

Mandy X

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by James Jordan

Air brushed images and untouched images

 

airbrushed images before and after

Air brushed images and untouched images

Many of us get freaked out about the way we look. We feel inadequate compared to the models we see in magazines and in the general media. People, in general tend to be much harsher and critical of themselves than others. Couple that with this images of perfection constantly being displayed and it’s no wonder that many of us lack self confidence and don’t want to leave the house till we’ve lost the weight or that pesky pimple in the middle of our forehead.

While there will always be those that are better and those that are worse, it’s important to make the most of what we have been given. Focus on your good bits and not on what you feel you lack.

Before and After Images:

before and after Britney Spears airbrushed

airbrushed before and after

airbrushed before and after

airbrushed before and after

I hope that’s cheered you up. The next time you look at an image, remind yourself that it has probably been ‘doctored’. People still prefer the real thing, you’re the real thing and the ‘real’ model behind the airbrushed image doesn’t look like that in reality!

Mandy X

Bipolar disorder and depression

 

depression photo

Bipolar disorder and depression

Depression is one of the main reasons that clients seek me out. Unfortunately, depression is on the rise and is set to continue to increase and pervade society in the years to come. Depression is caused my many factors so it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why a person may be depressed.

The obvious signs that a counsellor would look for would be whether there is a history of depression in the family as this can make depression more likely to occur. Alcohol and drug abuse is another trigger factor and of course, how long the individual has felt low and how severe their depression is. That is, how much is it interfering with their abilities to live a normal life.

Treatment:

Most people with bipolar depression are not helped by antidepressants. There is a risk that antidepressants can make bipolar disorder worse by triggering mania or hypomania, causing rapid cycling between mood states, or interfering with other mood stabilizing drugs.

The difference between bipolar disorder and depression

Both feature depression however, bipolar disorder is also characterized by periods of mania (known as manic depression). Mania includes:

  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Decreased need for sleep (e.g., one feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
  • More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
  • Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
  • Attention is easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant items
  • Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation
  • Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)

 

Depression is more consistent regarding mood intensity. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
  • No interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia (inability to sleep) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much) nearly every day
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day
  • Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide

Most people diagnosed with either bipolar disorder or depression generally feel better within a few months and many people can safely discontinue treatment with their doctor’s recommendation within a year. The actual length of treatment varies widely, however, based upon the severity of the disorder, the effectiveness of the treatment for that individual, and other factors.

Mandy X

 

Refs/Source: http://psychcentral.com/lib/whats-the-difference-between-depression-and-manic-depression/0002546

Staying in an unhappy relationship

 

unhappy relationship photo

Staying in an unhappy relationship

Why is it that so many of us stay in an unhappy relationship? I am guilty of this and I have met numerous people, personally and professionally, who stay in a relationship that leaves them feeling miserable most of the time. Why do we do it to ourselves and is there a way to break this unhealthy attachment to someone who isn’t good for us?

 Common reasons for staying in an unhappy relationship

During my many sessions with clients, here are the main reasons that have surfaced for staying in an unhappy relationship:

1) Fear of the unknown

It seems that many of us fear what might happen if we abandon the safety of our current relationship. Even if the relationship doesn’t meet our expectations, at least we know what we’re getting. Fear of the unknown is a huge motivating factor for staying in an unhappy relationship.

2) Fear of being alone

We often mistakenly believe that we will end up alone and have no one to support and comfort us. However, looking at the statistics, it would appear that this is rarely the case. Most people go on to find someone else, or realise that being on their own isn’t half as scary as they thought it would be. For those that have braved it and gone it alone, they have reported that they began to blossom again and make the most of themselves, whereas when they were staying in an unhappy relationship, that part of themselves was stifled and under nourished. I was in a similar situation, fearing that I could not make it alone. When I did make the break, I had to push myself to learn new skills – household finances, driving to new places I wouldn’t have done in the past, learning DIY and other skills that I never really practised in a relationship. I realised how capable I actually was – it was a real eye opener and helped me flourish in many more ways than I would’ve done had I stayed in my unhappy relationship.

3) Denial

Denial is an effective defense mechanism because if you do not acknowledge that there is a problem, there is no need to confront it and deal with it. This is another common reason for staying in an unhappy relationship. I see clients who put up with regular emotional and psychological abuse yet they have managed to find ways to ‘normalise’ what they are experiencing. They find ways to justify the state of the relationship and often blame themselves for the awful behaviour of their partners. This situation is one that I find incredibly sad – the great lengths that people will go to in order to live with their horrendous situations. Unfortunately, therapy is not usually very effective until a person accepts what they are experiencing is unacceptable and stops denying the reality.

4) Staying for the sake of the children

This is a misguided reason for staying in a relationship and it is a very convenient excuse to avoid having to take responsibility for an unhappy relationship. It puts the onus of responsibility into a sphere of martyrdom, one that I do not believe is healthy. Children are incredibly perceptive and they will undoubtedly pick up on the negative atmosphere at home. They might grow up thinking it is normal to stay in an unhappy relationship and might settle for second best when they are adults because that it was Mum and Dad did. They will grow up in an environment where there is little love, support and affection shown between their parents and this affects children negatively. It is far better to have two separate homes where the environment is happy and light-hearted than an environment where both parents struggle to keep it together and put on a show for the children.

5) Fear of financial deprivation

On a practical level, no one wants to give up their cushy life that they are accustomed to. I have met many spouses who are aware that their other half is having an affair yet they turn a blind eye to it as they do not want to lose their comfortable home, nice car and jet-set lifestyle. Fear of having to start over and struggle financially makes many people staying in an unhappy relationship think twice about leaving. As a result, many couples live a lie in effect, doing their own thing, connecting less and less whilst still enjoying the combined ‘material fruits’ of their union.

6) Fear of what others may think

Some see separation as a sign of failure. Their thinking is so rigid on this that they would rather end up staying in an unhappy relationship than experience the pity and the gossip surrounding a split. Really? In my opinion, failure means staying in a relationship that crushes your spirit and erodes your self esteem and confidence.

There are so many reasons why people end up staying in an unhappy relationship – most of them are fear based. Fear based decision making is usually a mistake yet relationships can be complicated each one needs to be assessed individually. If you think that you are staying in an unhappy relationship out of fear, try to work out whether these fears are actually founded or whether you have allowed irrational thinking to take over. We can’t tell the future but don’t you own it to yourself to live a life that is the best possible experience? Life isn’t a dress rehearsal and every day that you remain unhappy leads to a loss of time when you could potentially have been happier than you are. See a counsellor if necessary to discuss your options and your reasoning. You may just find that leaving allows you to bring out your potential and live a life that involves living, not just surviving.

Mandy X

 

 

Photo by mikecogh

Are you dating a narcissist?

selfish photo

 

Are you dating a narcissist?

Many couples come to see me regarding problems in their relationships and I have found a large proportion of these cases to be affected by a narcissistic element. Often, one person exhibits many narcissistic traits, making the success of the relationship more of a challenge.

So what exactly are the typical traits of a narcissist?

1) “It’s all about me”

Dating a narcissist can be extremely challenging because they are mainly motivated by what’s in it for them. They are motivated by self interest – pure and simple. If they do not see any gain for themselves, they will be unlikely to do it. If it means they can make their partner happy but there is no specific gain to them directly, their interest will be low or non-existent. Of course, if they sacrifice and then know they will be widely seen as a wonderful person, they might still do it for the recognition. A relationship often serves to enhance a narcissists image. The bottom line though is that they only engage in activities where there will be some type of gain for them. They do not engage in purely selfless acts for the benefit of others.

2) Narcissists lack empathy

Narcissists do not think in a healthy and balanced way. They lack genuine emotional connections with others. Despite this, they are incredibly adept at acting the part of a caring person, at least initially or when acting the part is called for. One thing that I have noticed time and time again is that narcissists don’t feel the natural, normal emotions many feel. What they have to do is act out what they think would constitute a caring, empathic person.

So, in the beginning when dating a narcissist, they will be very attentive, very romantic and appear wonderful in many ways. They will write cards, be thoughtful in sending flowers or other gifts, writing loving texts and arranging romantic dinners. A narcissist cannot sustain this behaviour however, as it does not come naturally to them. They do all the caring stuff as a means to an end – to capture the other person’s affections and gain emotional control. Once the other person is hooked, they can go back to being their normal selfish behaviour.

3) Narcissists are excellent at manipulation

Narcissists seem to have a 6th sense when it comes to uncovering other people’s weak spots. They are adept at figuring out another person’s vulnerabilities and they use this to achieve their personal goals. If you are insecure about the way you look, they may initially make you feel as if you are the most gorgeous person ever, but after a while they will use this against you. They will possibly drop the odd hint about how there are so many good looking people where they work or they will insinuate that their partner is not taking enough care of themselves. They do this to establish value. In this way, the slowly  influence their partner to feel they are not good enough and that they are lucky to have someone who stays with them. It’s subtle most of the time, but their subtle negative comments do the job of keeping you full of self doubt.

4) Narcissists never take the blame

Narcissists are not good when it comes to receiving constructive criticism. As far as they are concerned they are victims of others people’s ineptitude, lack of competence and/or other people’s negligent actions. They are unable to see their role in things going wrong. Instead they will lash out and convince others that it is their fault, that they are the one with the problem. Narcissists are very good at creating a mindset for themselves that  involves denial of reality. As I mentioned before, their thinking is distorted. They twist reality to fit their way of seeing things, Dating a narcissist means you will very rarely be allowed an audience with an objective person who will see your side. Don’t expect to hear them say “sorry” either.

So what do you do if you suspect that you are dating a narcissist?

Narcissists can still be loveable even though they give very little back in a relationship. They are often charismatic and charming.

1) Understanding and context

Try to understand why your narcissistic partner is the way they are. Sometimes, you can see obvious signs from a dysfunctional childhood. Some narcissists use the bravado to hide their own sense of shame and inadequacy. Understanding promotes tolerance of their behaviour.

2) Don’t try to change them

Trying to argue with a narcissist is often a waste of time as they tend to be very set in their ways. They have rigid thinking and are not swayed easily. Trying to get them to see your way of thinking is a futile exercise. Instead, accept who they are and what they are willing to give. If you feel resentful at their behaviour in a relationship, trying to change them is not an option.

3) Highlight the benefits to them

As narcissists are  motivated by personal gain, you may be able to influence them in this way. Show them how something will benefit them and you might be able to get their cooperation. Work with them and play to their interests.

4) Stand up for yourself

Let your narcissistic partner know when they annoy you. The more you allow them to mistreat you, the worse it will get. Be assertive and let them know when you are not happy with their behaviour. Your responsibility is to communicate your needs. If you find that your requests are repeatedly ignored, it might be time to rethink the status of the relationship.

5) Ask for what you need

Dating a narcissist can be a lonely experience and you need to be quite resourceful and self sufficient to cope. As narcissists often lack empathy, they need to be told what is expected of them. Ask for what you want and make instructions as clear and precise as possible.

There are many types of narcissistic behaviour, severe and long standing narcissists are often diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Some narcissists have less severe characteristics and they have the most chance of enjoying a successful relationship.

Mandy X

 

 

Photo by laudu

The “Life Rules” Book

 

 

book photo

The “Life Rules” Book

The Life Rules book is a great way to challenge thinking and find new ways to look at the world that suit you better.

Many of us live life according to rules. Many of these rules were not made by us, do not assist us or help us in any way and can sometimes really limit our true potential.

When you catch yourself saying or thinking, “I should” or “I must” or “that is just how it is”, ask yourself whether this is in fact true. Ask yourself – “Where is the Life Rules book stating that I must…?”

  • always cook dinner for my partner at 7pm each night.
  • stay on a strict diet and exercise for an hour each day.
  • always keep up appearances and show a perfect life.
  • always be busy and productive.
  • look gorgeous and amazing at all times.
  • say “yes” to others in order to be liked.

The above are just a few examples of the rules we put upon ourselves that don’t have to be there. We are free to create and to change any rules in our life ( as long as we aren’t doing anything illegal!).

Change the rules, mix it up and question the ones that are in place – do they work for you? Do they help you to feel good about yourself and get the best out of you? Another trick is to replace words such as “should” and “must” with “could”. You might prefer to diet and exercise every day but never let that become such a rigid rule whereby, if you don’t stick to it, self loathing begins. Ensure rules are not counter productive. Preserve and protect your self esteem and confidence at all times by making up your own set of rules that work for you.

Mandy X

 

I’m not good enough

not good enough photo

I’m not good enough

“I’m not good enough” is a statement that I hear many clients say. Perhaps they don’t come out with it immediately but after a few therapy sessions of searching and exploring, clients often find that many of their problems boil down to a basic belief about themselves: that they somehow don’t measure up.

There are many reasons for feeling this way – our parents, schooling, the media, comparing ourselves using faulty assumptions – the list is endless.

How this belief  “I’m not good enough” affects life on a practical level:

1) Avoiding social gatherings and/or intimacy, close relationships with others

2) Avoiding going out, preferring to stay indoors

3) Not applying for jobs that seem too challenging (even if they aren’t in reality)

4) Not offering an opinion that others might reject

5) Being a people pleaser, non-assertive person

6) Avoiding trying anything new

7) Being possessive, jealous and/or controlling in relationships

8) Overcompensating by either being highly critical of others or by playing the clown, being the life and soul of the party

9) Anxiety and depression

10) Panic attacks

Feeling not good enough manifests in a variety of ways and can often go undetected even for those close to the person who feels this way. It’s normal to suffer from self doubt and to feel inadequate at times in life. This has more to do with faulty thinking though and should not be seen as confirmation of not being good enough.

When we monitor and challenge our thinking, we can find ways to boost our self esteem and develop ‘buffers’ to keep us feeling good about ourselves.

If you feel that you aren’t good enough, think about how this core belief might be affecting and limiting your life. Feed yourself with positive thoughts. If you find this very difficult to do, see a therapist and try cognitive-behavioural therapy to help you become your number one fan.

Mandy X

 

 

Photo by CJS*64 A man with a camera

Savour the moment

the moment photo

Savour the moment

The easy path as an adult is to let life rush by, focusing all our energies on achieving, working, consuming and constantly ‘doing’. While this can be fulfilling, it makes the business of tending to your ‘inner world’ very difficult and ultimately, I believe, this is where true fulfilment comes from. Not the houses, the jobs, the cars or the trophy spouse but rather from connecting with others, having meaning and purpose in life and feeling we are making a positive, long lasting difference to the world we live in.

A life spent dealing with health problems has always forced me to tend to my inner world. When the business of doing gets too much, my body sends me stern reminders to slow down and remember what is truly important. This doesn’t mean that I never enjoy achieving but each achievement only means something for me if it is useful in some way. I don’t enjoy hollow victories like winning a contract that involves a lot of money but does little to enrich the lives of myself or others.

I am always able to see the bigger picture and not get hung up on the trivial misnomers of life. We can all be easily led down the path of thinking we are spending our time wisely when in effect, we are on ‘auto-pilot’ going through the motions yet not really feeling any satisfaction with our lives.

If you are constantly busy yet feel something is missing, this may be because you have bought into the idea that making money, constantly doing and being busy is the way to go. In my view, I would rather be doing less but achieving more by helping others, supporting charities and trying to make the world a better place. Most people who follow money and possessions find out in the end that they chased the wrong things to find fulfilment. I currently work in an old age home and as I pass their rooms, I see the residents lying in the same position in their beds day after day. I ask myself whether they had high flying jobs, whether they frittered away their precious time chasing short-lived business deals, getting too caught up in the monotony of life whilst neglecting their inner world. Now, all that is left is their one room with their bed…and of course many many photos of family and friends. Yep – people, not cars, houses, certificates or pictures of where they worked.

So if you want more fulfilment in your life, if you want to be in that single bed one day with a smile on your face thinking of all your escapades, I advise the following:

1) Be selfless – give to others and make others feel as they are the most important person when you are with them.

2) Understand what it is that you need to feel you are spending your time well. Even if you have a full time job, you can still take time out each day to reconnect with yourself and re-assess every now and then whether the path you are on is the right one. I use an app called “Headspace” to help me tune out the busy world and reconnect with myself and my core values.

3) Tune out the constant noise from others. If you aren’t assertive, your time will be taken up fulfilling other people’s lives and not your own. Learn to say “no”.  Stay away from the news at times, enjoy a day every so often where you shut out the constant information directed at you. Enjoy your surroundings instead.

4) Connect with nature. Get away from the concrete jungle every so often.

5) Connect with others. Find like minded people who inspire you.

6) Be mindful – be in the moment. The more present you are in your life, the more fulfilled you will be. Try to engage in all that is around you instead of being on social media or living a parallel life in your head. We often let precious moments pass thinking about what life will be like in the future. Redirect your focus back to now.

7) Remind yourself of what makes you happy – really happy. Not the short lived stuff but the things that stay with you. For me, it’s connecting with others, hearing their stories, learning from their actions – whether they were successful or not. I enjoy learning and I enjoy sharing my life experiences with others.

Tune into your inner world. They say that your inner world mirrors your outer world. The more harmonious and at peace you feel inside, the quicker your outer world with follow suit.

Mandy X

 

 

 

5 Essential requirements for a long-lasting relationship

happy man and woman photo

5 Essential requirements for a long-lasting relationship

Ever wondered what the secret ingredients are for a happy long-lasting relationship are? Whilst there are as many differing opinions as there are unique couplings in the world, there are a few standard requirements accepted universally.

It takes a lot of effort to keep a relationship on track. If you think about it, you have two individuals with their own ideas and needs who come from different backgrounds and upbringings and all of those varying needs have to somehow be merged into one to keep the relationship happy. Not the simplest of tasks. Those taken in by the initial lure of those lust-filled first few months may easily forget that a mature, solid relationship will go through many phases and will not be sustainable on ‘lust/infatuation-fuel’ alone.

So, here is my list of the 5 essential requirements for a long-lasting relationship:

The first two are the most important. A relationship is going nowhere without these two requirements:

1) Shared Commitment

It may seem common sense but I have witnessed many people in relationships who fool themselves as to their partner’s commitment. Women, especially, often fall in love with the idea of what a man could be rather than what he is currently presenting as. So, some relationships get off to a bad start where the commitment differs. One person may want a long term commitment, the other may prefer a more casual encounter…a “let’s see what happens” approach. Shared commitment where you re both on the same level is crucial in order to avoid issues further down the line.

2) Shared Values

Do you see the world in a similar way? Are you similar in your attitudes to male/female roles within a relationship? Do you agree on how children should be brought up and disciplined? Do you feel that monogamy is important? These are the types of issues that I see couples struggle with time and time again. They argue over work/life balance, they argue over who does more house chores and who is more tired. If these don’t get resolved, the good will erodes and resentment builds up. Love struggles to thrive when resentment is rife.

3) Intellectual compatibility

Are you similar in intellect? Some people don’t mind that much but ultimately, if you have nothing in common on an intellectual level it will begin to create problems. If your partner is obsessive about sport and you prefer watching soap operas on the television all day, these differences will lead to problems. Unless you are both aware of the deficit and compensate in other ways by spending quality time together sharing mutual interests, a wedge will begin to grow between you. This is an extreme example but if one person is a bus driver or truck driver and the other a human rights lawyer, intellectual compatibility make rear it’s head in the future.

4) Physical compatibility

Sexual chemistry is a wonderful thing. It can help to smooth over many ‘niggles’ in a relationship. On it’s own though, it will be short lived. Ask yourself whether you fancy your partner. Do you enjoy being physically intimate with them? I know many couples who sleep in separate rooms and this is after only being married a year or two. I see problems on the horizon. I know of many people in relationships who will do anything to avoid physical intimacy. They will go to bed earlier and pretend to be asleep. They will feign sickness. They squirm when their partner goes near there. Oh dear – not the healthiest of situations to be in. Some couples work around this, others find they don’t miss sex at all. It is really only a problem when one partner has a higher libido than the other and is not getting their physical needs met in the relationship.

5) Emotional compatibility

Is your partner able to support you through the tough times? When you need sympathy, support or a shoulder to cry on, are they there for you? Emotional compatibility is important, and it would seem, even more so for women.

Emotional intelligence is also a part of this equation. Some people in relationships just don’t seem to possess the necessary skills to know how to support their partner. This occurs for men and women although I have found that men find it harder to express emotions and support their partners in times of emotional stress. If you are able to empathise with each other, you are lucky to have that essential connection.

The above 5 requirements give us the ingredients needed to make the recipe. The outcome of the cooking or baking though is still down to the adept skills of the cooks.

It can also be likened to being given the keys to the car. You can now get in and drive but how well you navigate depends upon how well both parties communicate, compromise and understand each other. Be kind, try to put yourself in their shoes and make time to reintroduce good will if you notice that it is fading.

Do something fun together, put that sparkle back. Research has shown that doing activities out of your usual comfort zone is a great way to reconnect as you have to rely on each other in unfamiliar surroundings. So get out there and book that bungee jump or abseiling!

Mandy X

 

 

Photo by gareth1953 New Profile

The importance of emotional intelligence

 

 

smiling person photo

The Importance of emotional intelligence

Being able to read others, express empathy and tune in to how other’s are feeling leads to a more successful life than someone who is academically gifted. As Aristotle once said: ‘Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy.’

Aristotle’s challenge becomes all the more important in a technologically advanced world, because the meaning of ‘civilization’ ceases to be technological, defaulting back to the nature of man and the quest for self-control. The obsession with IQ was a product of the 20th century’s model of mechanistic achievement; EQ, in its focus on empathic people skills and relationships, is a basic success element in a more fluid and creative 21st century economy.

The corporate world and emotional intelligence

The wise managers and directors are those that also look at the happiness of their employees. The happier an employee, the more they produce = more profit. Unfortunately the corporate world works from a limited perspective and often ignores the importance of emotions and relationships in the workplace. Google are going some way to dealing with this as they have placed a giant slide for employees in their office. Small gestures like this can make all the difference to productivity!

Google slide San Francisco

Google – San Francisco. Courtesy of: Scott Beale

Daniel Goleman has wrote a fantastic book about emotional intelligence and how it should be taught in schools. Society would be a far better place if we had more empathy and were more self aware of our own emotions.

The most alluring implication of this book by Daniel Goleman: Emotional Intelligence is that greater awareness and control of our emotions on a large scale would mean an evolution of the species. We believe that hate, rage, jealousy, etc. are ‘only human’, but when we look at the finest human beings of this century – the Ghandis, the Martin Luther Kings, the Mother Teresas – we find such negative emotions were remarkably absent.

These people were able to express anger according to Aristotle’s dictum – they could use their emotions instead of letting their emotions use them. What could be a better definition of civility or humanity?

Mandy X

 

 

Accidental Happiness

 

happy person photo

Accidental Happiness

The harder we try to engineer happiness the more elusive it can become. Often, what we think will make us happy isn’t quite what the experience turns out to be in reality. So how can it be that our ideas of what we think will make us happy in the future can be so wrong?

Millions of years ago the first type of humans experienced a massive increase in the size of their brains in a relatively short space of time. Most growth was in the frontal lobe region, above the eyes. Frontal lobe damage affects planning and if a person is unable to plan there is a reduction in anxiety. Both anxiety and planning involve worrying about the future. The ability to move forward and backward across time in our minds is perhaps humanity’s greatest evolutionary achievement.

The brain is very clever at creating shortcuts to access as well as store information. As a result, memories aren’t preserved perfectly, they are preserved in part and as we initially interpreted them, not as they may really have been intended.

Why our thoughts of future happiness are flawed

In the same way that our memories and our perceptions can be faulty, when it comes to imagining the future, the details that we imagine happening frequently do not give us the whole picture. It is not so much the things we do imagine happening that are incorrect, but more that we leave out things which do happen. As many psychological experiments have shown, the human mind is not well structure to note absences of things. But our brains do such a brilliant conjuring trick in making us believe that our interpretations are fact that we accept what it gives us without question.

Our personal future forecasts are a mixture of what our brains have invented, based on past experience, and an absence of details that our brains have conveniently ignored. Is it any wonder, then, that our predictions of what is likely to make us happy in the future will be wrongly based?

When we imagine things in the future, we use the same sensory parts of the brain that we use to experience real things in the present. We are generally not rational about future events, carefully weighing up the pros and cons, but run them through in our mind to see what emotional reaction we get. What we imagine happening is defined by what we are feeling now.

In short, the human brain is set up to imagine the future quite well, but not perfectly, and this accounts for the gulfs we often experience between what we thought would make us happy, and what actually does. This means that we can spend all our lives making money, then decide it wasn’t worth it, but it also means we can be pleasantly surprised when people, situations or events which we were certain would make us miserable turn out not to be so.

So how do we find reliable happiness?

The best way to find out how we will feel about a particular future course of action (a certain career, a move to a particular city, having children) is to ask people who have already done it how they felt. Given the human lust for control, this seems a bit unsatisfying – we feel we should make up our minds fully about our destinies, not ask other people. And yet, the best decisions may forever lay beyond our grasp if we are not willing to draw on the fabulous wealth of experience other members of the species can provide. As individuals we have enormous belief in our uniqueness, but it is also true that everything you consider doing has been done by someone else. Such a strategy, while not particularly exciting, is the best available to deliver us life satisfaction and well-being, whereas the happiness from relying purely on ourselves may only ever be stumbled upon.

Mandy X

Source: http://psyclassics.com/book/gilbert-stumbling-on-happiness

 

Photo by LyndaSanchez

The last 24 hours

 

sunset photo

The last 24 hours

What has happened in the last 24 hours of your life? Another day has gone by – has it been a good one? Would you even know how to define whether the last 24 hours have been good, bad or ugly? Many of us go through the motions without ever taking time out to look at what we are actually doing with our lives. Here is a list to help you redefine whether your days are helping you get the most out of your life.

First of all, take away the amount of time you have slept over the last 24 hours. I slept for 10 hours so the time I will look at for me is 14 hours.

Look at the hours that you were awake and answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions:

1) Have you said “yes” to a request when you would rather have said “no”?  Y/N

2) Did you take at least an hour out of your day to relax?        Y/N

3) Were you able to connect with at least one person that cares about you? Y/N

4) Did you laugh at least once?    Y/N

5) Did you smile at a stranger at least once?     Y/N

6) Did you enjoy at least one experience yesterday (a massage/a good meal/a good book/great music etc)….?      Y/N

7) Did you take any steps towards improving yourself, your life, your situation..no matter how small?     Y/N

8) Were you able to do something that you felt proud of (a new recipe, a new experience, faced a fear)?      Y/N

9) Did you manage to tell yourself positive things about yourself, champion and/or encourage yourself on some level?   Y/N

10) Did you spend any time berating yourself or focusing on what you don’t like about yourself without doing anything productive about it?   Y/N

11) Did you spend too much time worrying about things you can’t do anything about? Y/N

12) Did you actively seek out something/someone that inspires you or makes you feel hopeful about the world and/or your future?

 

 

SCORE:

……Yes    No

1)     0        1

2)     1        0

3)     1        0

4)     1        0

5)     1        0

6)     1         0

7)     1          0

8)     1          0

9)     1          0

10)   0           1

11)   0           1

12)    1           0

The higher your score, the more likely you are to be happier and content.

The above questions are only meant as a guideline. We all have various ideas of what constitutes a good day. This is still a good way to remind yourself of how you are spending your days and whether they will lead to more peace of mind or not. Rewarding ourselves, seeking out things or people that inspire us and making sure we relax some of the time are all important. Being assertive, expressing ourselves, connecting with others on a social level are essential too and finally – watching our negative thinking and limiting our unnecessary worrying all help us to lead the happiest lives possible.

 

Escaping on the internet

 

internet photo

Escaping on the internet

Frequently in my profession, I have come across clients who are escaping on the internet to find excitement and new adventures to spice up their “boring lives”. Although there clearly are some merits to this strategy, there are many pitfalls too. I decided to write this post to share some stories and give others perspective on escaping on the internet.

1) Escaping on the internet to meet new people

The motivation to meet new people, for whatever reason, is varied. Some do it because their marriage or live-in relationship has become lacklustre and they crave the excitement of flirting with someone new. Some do it to find support for similar situations that they may be going through. Most people don’t enjoy monotony and will seek out new ways to get thrills, to feel alive. The problem with escaping on the internet is that our focus gets taken away from the reality of our lives and is directed in to a fantasy world. I have witnessed this happening many times and the trouble begins when the reality and the fantasy begin to collide. People become more disgruntled and unhappy with their real lives and ‘buy into’ the ideas and offers that the fantasy online world promises them. Going online to fix boredom at home when it comes to romantic relationships is never a good idea. When the focus shifts from finding solutions to our real lives to the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure on the internet, the downward spiral begins. Problems in real life do not miraculously disappear and active problem solving needs to take place to change things. Consistent escapism is as far from productive solution-seeking as is possible.

2) Gambling on the internet

It’s all about balance and we all need to find temporary ways to escape the stress of life. This approach is healthy but the pursuit of pleasure can become addictive. Who wouldn’t prefer to find pleasure than deal with unpleasant problems? Online gambling is fine when it is well managed but when the urge to gamble becomes overwhelming or obsessive, the slippery slope begins. Someone in a relationship who is gambling frequently will be giving less time to their partner. I know of many couples who rarely eat dinner together and who rarely even spend time together in the evenings due to one partner’s gambling habits. They lock themselves away and the relationship suffers. It is not uncommon for couples to lose everything they own due to wayward gambling habits. A sad but common place event.

3) Social Media

Facebook is becoming a top reason for couples separating. Increasingly, couples are coming to see me to try break their addictive social media habits. Repeatedly, I hear stories of couples sitting in the same room whilst both on their laptops, ipads or mobile phones. This is the crazy world we live in. We spend less time engaged with our immediate surroundings and more time finding out what others are doing who aren’t even present. Facebook eats into valuable quality time together. It is also a way to spy on each other and Facebook has been responsible for divulging information such as infidelity and dishonesty in relationships on a regular basis. It nurtures paranoia, insecurities and jealousy. Learn to switch off and adopt a mindful approach to life -that means being more present in your real life – engaging your senses. Listening, smelling, touching, tasting and feeling – that is what makes us feel truly alive.

The internet has revolutionised the way we live and has helped us in so many ways. It is up to us to manage it and use it to work in our favour rather than allow it to take control of us.

Mandy X