Spring has sprung and the weather might be getting better so can being outside and around nature affect my mental health?
Simple answer is yes.
Spending time in green spaces or bring nature into your everyday life can benefit physical wellneing. For example, doing things like growing foor or flowers, exercises, being around animals can have lots of positive effects on us. It can improve our moods, help reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and anger, it can help us take time out of our busy lives to make us feel more relaxed, being outside can help improve our physical health, this can improve our confidence and self esteem, help us be more active, help us make new connections with neighbours being out and about and this can provide peer support for times when we need it.
Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. For example, research into ecotherapy (a form of therapy which involves doing activities outside in nature) has shown it can help with moderate depression. Being outside in natural light can also be helpful if you experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects people during particular seasons or times of the year.
Try taking a small walk around your neighbourhood. When you are walking, try to engage with what is around you. Can you feel your feet as they press against the road or pavement? What sounds can you hear? Is there any birdsong or traffic noise? Be mindful of feeling the sun (or wind or rain) on your face as you walk. Are there any smells along your walk. Being more present in your body than in your head and your thoughts can feel very relaxing on even a short walk.
We are designed to cope with a certain amount of stress to help us through difficult times. What happens when those difficult times don't stop? Those difficult times become worse? That's when we start to become burnt out. We lose our Burnoutfocus on life. We don't feel happy even doing the things that usually make us happy. We feel negatively towards our work, our colleagues, our family, our partners. It all becomes just a load of rubbish and you can't see a way to ever feel enthusiastic and happy about your life again.
What can you do? Firstly, take the time to think about whether you are burnt out. Acknowledge that you are struggling and may need some help.
Look at where you can get that help. At work, do you really need to do everything yourself. Can you delegate. What are the important bits of work that you need to prioritise? Some work just has to be done and some can wait until you have more energy and time to do it.
If you are working at home it can feel difficult to 'leave work' as you are possibly in the same room as work. Is there a way of working only in one room? Then you can leave that room at 6pm and close the door on work instead of watching TV and continuing to read emails throughout. If you can't, put your lap top away. Shut the lid down and put it out of sight. If you can, work in one space and relax in another..... even if that means changing chairs in the same room!!
Does your boss pile more and more stuff on you and expect you to be working throughout every evening? Be firm about your needs. If you don't give them to yourself, then no-one may think you have needs. Think of something that you would like to spend some time doing. Throughout lockdowns, we have possibly tried various things and some have been fun, some not so good. What do you enjoy? Why aren't you taking a few minutes to do it again?
If our laptop doesn't work, the advice is to turn it off, leave it a few minutes and turn it back on. You need the same. Turn yourself off for a few hours......
Mindfulness - what is it?
The Wikipedia definition is as follows:-
….. mindfulness is defined as moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, characterized mainly by "acceptance" - attention to thoughts and feelings without judging whether they are right or wrong.
Whether you think that sounds simple or incredibly difficult then you are right! Trying not to judge ourselves, trying not to imaging how other people perceive our actions or not second guessing what we ‘should’ be doing in a situation can be incredibly hard for some people. We all have an inner voice either urging us on or questioning our abilities so image you can just ‘be’. Can you begin to think how it would feel if that questioning voice was just a whisper which we could pass over and get on with our lives – enjoying every second of it?
Mindfulness encompasses various methods of reminding ourselves of the moment-by-moment feelings, thoughts, emotions and physical sensations so we can be more in tune with our bodies. Maybe during these darker months when we can’t get out and about so much, how about getting ‘in’ more – in tune with ourselves.
On YouTube there are 1000s of mindfulness videos guiding you though body scan meditations, relaxation techniques, explanations of processes, in fact anything you might want to learn. Why not treat yourself and go somewhere exceptional?
Ideas to help cope with lockdown
At times of stress, most of us have found good ways of coping such as meeting up with friends to talk through our worries, talking things through with our partner or family. We may socialise with friends over a good meal, join others doing some exercise or meeting groups that have similar hobbies or interests. Some of our ways could be solo such as reading a good book, unwinding after a busy day in a warm bath or watching a good film on TV.
Now that we are experiencing a lack of social contact with our family and friends, some people are finding it particularly stressful. Apart from the worries for our own health and that of our family and friends, we have a continual input of distressing information through news reports and social media.
Our usual routines of school and work may have been disrupted and for some, we are busier than ever without any end to the increasingly busy period or find we are at home with time on our hands and no idea how to fill our days.
Limiting news time
We can limit our exposure to the amount of time that we watch news reports. Limiting to once a day can help us to stop continually ruminating on that and give us some mind space for other things.
Whilst we may have lost our normal routine, it can be important to try to establish some new ones. Try getting up at a regular time, having lunch at the same time every day and plan to achieve one thing each day.
After what has seemed like months of rain, spring is trying to start and we have times of sunshine. If you can get outside for a solo walk, bending and stretching in the garden or doing an on line exercise class. All of these can help boost your well-being.
Keeping in contact with friends and family is important and whilst we can't visit them we can be inventive in the ways we can touch base. Luckily, we live in a society today that most of us have phones available to use or a computer. Video calls can be important to see each other's faces during this time. Writing emails or writing real letters to post to friends and family can all be useful ideas.
Unfortunately, there are always people out to take advantage of people struggling so be vigilant. If you receive some post or emails that you aren't expecting asking for any personal details or offering you something you haven't applied for or requested, then chances are it is a scam. If it is really for you and it is genuine, they will understand if you don't give out your information when they first ask.
Are you finding your relationship feels strained this year? Here are a few ways that can help you re-connect with your loved one.
Try making time every day to do this exercise. Try having five minutes when you can connect in the five ways below. Each section is designed to help us understand each other that little bit better.
APPRECIATIONS: Take turns acknowledging each other, sincerely and specifically. This isn’t the time to simply say, “You’re a great mother,” or “I appreciate that you’re kind and caring,” or slipping in requests, such as, “I’d appreciate you calling me next time you’re going to be late,” or “I appreciate you remembering to take out the trash — tomorrow.” Be precise and authentic. For example, “I appreciate all the effort you put into making a really wonderful, delicious dinner last night, especially that you cooked things you knew the kids would love,” or “I appreciate the text messages and pictures you’ve been sending me during the day to connect with me and show me our adorable baby!“No matter what stage or situation your relationship is in – even (perhaps especially) during periods of stress, crisis, change, or uncertainty — we can always find something to genuinely appreciate in another person. Be generous in your acknowledgments and affirmations of those whose lives you witness. Your heartfelt words will help maintain goodwill, boost self-worth and self-esteem, and create an environment in which you can work together to constructively address the challenges, obstacles and differences that are a natural part of every active relationship.
NEW INFORMATION: Be intentional about keeping each other up-to-date on what’s happening in your life, whether it’s something significant or relatively minor. For example, “The kids want to go to Granny's for dinner tonight,” or “I heard someone else also got sick from the burger van in the high street," or “Veronica is going leaving work tomorrow and I’m thinking about how we’re going to adjust to her leaving,” or “I read an interesting article in the newspaper this morning about a new exercise class that is starting in the hall and feel I want to try it,” or “I lost my balance during my walk yesterday and I’m thinking about making a doctor’s appointment,” or “Your sister called to say she she’ll arrive next Wednesday and can’t wait to see you and the baby.“
Sharing the events of our lives, including allowing significant others to know what we’re thinking about and feeling, is vital to the experience of bonding – a need we all have as humans. Too often, even in a world with technologies for sharing information that were unimaginable not long ago, couples and families can lose each other in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives with consequences that can last a lifetime. Keep each other up-to-date.
PUZZLES: What are you wondering about that’s connected to someone important in your life? What assumptions are you making that you haven’t checked out that could be affecting your own attitude, beliefs or actions?
Frequently couples on the verge of separation or divorce have made huge assumptions about how the other person seeks the world, their prior actions towards each other were based on a web of assumptions and reactions that weren’t validated.
Puzzles is your chance to ask questions about anything you’re wondering about. It doesn’t mean you’ll get answers – or that you’ll necessarily like the answers you get — but it’s an important step to make sure you’re not making and acting upon inaccurate assumptions.
For example, “I notice you haven’t seemed very happy this week, I’m wondering what’s going on?” or “I noticed you looking at new cars on the Internet? Are you thinking about trading in your car?” or “Annie said she thought she saw you at the pub having lunch yesterday? Was that you? Who were you having lunch with?“
As you’re learning to re-connect with each other and especially if your relationship is in a fragile state, be patient with each other; begin with smaller issues to give yourselves a chance to become comfortable with the process, develop good speaking and listening skills, and clearly establish good will.
After you share a puzzle, the listener can respond with information to answer or shed additional light on your question, can let you know that they’ll give your question some thought and would like to talk about it later (as long as later actually comes), or can simply thank you for sharing and leave it at that. Asking questions doesn’t require the listener to answer, but it does offer the opportunity.
No matter what the issue, remember to stay grounded in goodwill, respect, empathy, and openness to learning. If the answer to a puzzle is going to take more than a few minutes, it’s better to schedule time outside the of this daily check in for a discussion. The idea of this daily check in is that is a relatively brief period of time that you can consistently devote to each other.
CONCERNS WITH RECOMMENDATIONS: We are all unique. Differences are a natural part of every relationship, very much influenced by our individual perspective, personal history, and life experiences, as well as our physical, mental, and emotional well-being at any given moment in time. Rarely are differences themselves destructive to relationships; frequently, however, the ways couples, families and co-workers deal with differences is destructive.
Significant research has indicated that you can predict a great deal about the future of a couple’s relationship by watching the first minute or two of how they deal with conflict. When one person or the other responds to someone’s expression of disappointment, sadness, frustration, anger, or concern in a way that adds more fuel to the fire (actively or passively), we eventually deprive ourselves of the opportunity to fully know and accept each other, create an environment in which it’s safe to confide, grow, and work through concerns, and become closer through our successful navigation of the challenges woven throughout our love and life experiences. It’s vitally important to develop the habit of listening with empathy and a desire to understand when someone we love shares a concern.This is easier to do when we’re comfortable with our own sense of self-worth and can be quite difficult when our self-esteem is low.
When sharing a Concern with a Recommendation, be specific about the behavior you’re concerned about (don’t attack, judge, blame or criticize), say how you feel (not think) when the behavior happens, and ask for exactly what you want instead.
For example, “When we make plans to do something together and you change them 30 minutes before we’re supposed to go out, I feel sad and scared that I’m not important in your life. What I want instead is to talk through plans fully when we make them and that if something comes up where you think it will be necessary to change our plans, you bring that up with me at least a day in advance,” or “When I come home after a long day and driving through an hour of traffic and the first thing you do is begin telling me things that you want me to do, I feel frustrated that I don’t have time to first unwind and scared that I can’t do it all. What I want instead is that you give me an hour after I get home to just relax and get settled before bringing up things you want me to do.”
As the listener, after you’ve heard a concern with recommendation, you can answer (yes, no, or yes with conditions, i.e. here’s what I’d need from you), schedule a time to follow-up with a more extensive conversation outside of the cgeck in, or simply thank the speaker for sharing, knowing that you now have more information about what you can do to be a pleasure in the life of someone who is important to you.
WISHES, HOPES, DREAMS: There’s a popular myth that says when you really want something, you should close your eyes, wish for what you want, and not tell anyone for fear that then it won’t come true. As volumes of research and much popular literature argues, the exact opposite is more often true. Creating a life in which our dreams have an opportunity to come true involves actively (and passionately) sharing them with others; enrolling those closest to us to support and encourage the fulfillment of our goals and ambitions; and waking up each day learning the lessons and taking the actions necessary to breathe life and potential into those dreams we most desire. Whether it’s the special meal you’d like this weekend, the baby you’d like to create together, the test you want to pass, the holiday you want to enjoy, the home by the sea where you hope to retire, or anything in between, regularly sharing your wishes, hopes and dreams – and encouraging others to share with you – brings us closer to each other, exponentially increases chances for our dreams to come true, and deepens our experiences of love, intimacy and connection.
Try spending 5 minutes each day for a month to see how your relationship unfolds.
Keys for a successful life
Firstly, what does that mean to you? For some it may mean a life without money worries, others want to achieve promotion and feel powerful in their company and some want to leave a legacy for which they might be remembered.
All of those, and others, are perfectly valid ideals so how can one piece of advice help you achieve that goal. That’s the dilemma. Any one piece of advice is useful but maybe you need to listen to lots of inspirational people who have achieved their individual ideal of success and blend their suggestions into your own mix.
Some ideas that you might like to think about …..
There are few artists as influential as Michaelangelo. Today centuries after his death, his work still inspires to people all over the world. His work in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican and his statue of David.
Find what you love and love what you do
Imagine that you get to do something you love every day and you get paid for doing it! Oprah Winfrey said ‘You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job and not be paid for it’.
If you are in a job that you hate, then being successful at it might only mean filling your life with something you hate to do. What’s the sense in this?
Instead, why not focus on doing something you love? When you’ve found what you’re passionate about, you get the motivation to keep you moving. Success at this means the fulfilment of your dreams.
Even if you’re not successful, you can still fill your time with something you love to do. Many successful musicians spent years of their lives doing unpaid performances, the only reason they kept playing was because they loved to perform.
Work Life Balance
All too often, people think that to be successful, they need to make the object of their success their life.
Learn how to fail
Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
There is a story, it’s unconfirmed whether it actually happened, yet the message within is none the less true:
Be the person that does things
Though it was said hundreds of years ago, it works just as much today as it ever had. It applies to literally any successful person.
Believe that you can do it
Success has to be something you can imagine yourself achieving.
Have a Positive Mental Attitude
From Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of America once said ‘Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.’
Like the above quote says, you need to trust in your ability to succeed. This is the only way to cultivate the right mindset.
Hard work pays off
You might have heard the quote that “success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”.
True success comes from work.
Trust in your own gut instincts
In ancient Greece, there was a group of Oracles who lived in Delphi. Everyone who needed advice or to know their future visited them, from the poorest of society to kings. Above the doorway of the temple were the words “know thyself”.
If you put all those ideas into practice and you work hard every day with a confidence in your heart that you will achieve things, then go for it!!
We often find that we blame ourselves for having depression. We have thoughts such as ‘I only have depression because I lost my job, which was all my fault’. Or ‘if I wasn’t so lazy my depression would go away’. If we mull it over long enough, we can think of all sorts of reasons why depression is our fault.
Depression is an illness. It’s an illness with a complex set of causes. It’s usually caused by a combination of things. Some might be biological and some might be things that have happened in our lives. Sometimes our actions might have resulted in a consequence that does impact our mood. But, depression is an illness. It’s not our fault.
Depression can come with so many different symptoms. Many of them can be quite anti-social, or can cause us to act in ways we would never behave when well. For example, it can cause us to be extra irritable. This might mean that we snap at our others for no apparent reason. We can then beat ourselves up for snapping at them, which can set off a negative spiral of difficult thoughts. Depression isn’t an excuse – we still need to apologise if we’ve hurt someone. But we need to allow ourselves a bit of kindness; depression does make everything around us feel overwhelming and intimidating, because there’s so much internal noise. We’ll act out of character, because we are out of character.
Sometimes we can learn to manage some of our symptoms. We can learn ways to cope with our increased irritability, for example. But the symptoms themselves are not our fault. It’s not our fault that socialising feels too much. It’s not our fault that we need a lot more sleep than others. It’s not our fault that we get angry sometimes. Depression, and the symptoms that come with it are not our fault.
We tell ourselves that we should just ‘get better’. Other people have it worse. We need to pull ourselves together and stop moping around.
Living with depression is hard and horrible. Other people might have it worse, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t feel absolutely awful. There are little things we can do to help ourselves such as engaging in therapy, upping our self care, and taking medication as prescribed. But we can’t snap our fingers and immediately be depression-free.
Sometimes we don’t notice that we’re blaming ourselves for things. We can be really harsh on ourselves without realising. The dialogue in our heads becomes normal to us. We’re so accustomed to having this voice in our head tearing us down and blaming us for everything, that we barely notice it’s happening.
Talking over some of our thoughts with someone else (a friend, family member, health professional or someone else) can help. Talking can help us to identify some of our unhelpful thought patterns. Other people can point out when we’re blaming ourselves for things that aren’t our fault. Identifying them means that we can then work on forgiving ourselves for these things.
One of the best ways to tackle self-blame is to forgive ourselves. Nobody is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. There will always be things that we’re unhappy with. Depression can exacerbate this because it can make us feel worse about ourselves and can cause us to make more mistakes.
It’s time to forgive ourselves for these things. Part of this forgiveness can include taking responsibility for our mistakes, (which is different from blaming ourselves). Once we’ve done that, we can forgive ourselves, ask for forgiveness from others, and move on. Nobody is perfect. Making mistakes is often how we learn in life; we didn’t walk the first time we tried, we stumbled and tumbled, again and again.
Having depression isn’t a ‘slip up’, or a mistake that we’ve made. It’s an illness. Blaming ourselves for depression means that a lot of energy is being used up on giving depression power; it loves us to feel crappy about ourselves as that keeps us where we are.
We are important and valuable. We are wonderful people with unique personalities and quirks. We have our good bits and less-good bits, just like anyone else. We are a work in progress. We will slip up. We will make mistakes – and that’s okay! We can forgive ourselves and ask for forgiveness from others if need be.
How to be productive at work while suffering with depression
Mental health problems such as depression are one of the leading causes of absences and productivity issues among employees. In 2010, a survey conducted by the UK IDEA (European Depression Association (EDA) revealed that 26 per cent of people in the UK have depression, and this mental illness is costing the government £105.2 billion each year – which covers the direct cost of mental health services, lost productivity at work, and reduced quality of life.
Staying productive at work is one of the biggest challenges that people with depression face. One day you are perfectly doing well and meeting your deadlines, the next day all you did was to look at your computer screen for eight hours. Overcoming depression is not an easy process and sometimes, it takes months (even years) of therapy to overcome this debilitating condition. The good news is that you can still manage to be productive at work and perform at your best even though you are depressed. Here’s how a few ways to help you:-
Take one step at a time
People with depression easily get overwhelmed even with simple tasks at work. Because of the vicious cycle of negative thinking, you may even find it hard to know where to start and how to deal with the problem at hand. One good strategy is to break big projects into smaller, achievable tasks. It can be helpful to create a to-do list or a chart that outlines the things you need to do and their expected completion dates. This helps reduce the anxiety you feel which is common during depression.
Take regular breaks
Taking a break is probably the last thing you want to do when you are anxious and afraid of not completing a task on time. But really, it can help ward off mental fatigue that prevents you from performing well at work. During breaks, avoid staying on your desk and take the opportunity to unwind a little. Go out for a cup of coffee, or stroll outside. Chat with your work buddies or call a friend. Trying to bust negative thoughts can consume a lot of your energy. Give yourself time to recharge.
Learn some relaxation techniques
It’s usual to experience burnout when you are depressed. The workweek may have just started but it may feel like you’re already in the middle. Relaxation techniques are very practical tools to reduce feelings of anxiety, fear or restlessness that you may experience from time to time at work. Among the best techniques are meditation, deep breathing and stretching. When things are getting too overwhelming, close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Shift your focus to your breathing pattern and to the sensations you feel in your body. And slowly release the tension. You will be surprised of how calming this simple exercise is.
Personalise your workspace
If your desk is full of clutter, it’s likely to worsen your depression. You want your environment to be as calm, beautiful, peaceful, fresh and organised as possible. Hang a picture of your family on your wall or post inspiring motivational quotes. The inspiration you get from these things can really ramp your productivity levels.
Give time for regular exercise
Not only will this fuel your energy at work, it will also help reduce symptoms of depression. A 30-minute daily exercise routine will do you a long way. But if you can exercise more, much better!
Make the most out of your rest days
Weekends only constitute two days so make the most out of it! As much as possible, avoid doing anything that’s work-related and stay away from your laptop or mobile phone (as they can make you feel like you’re at work). Rather, go out with friends and family. Spend your rest day staying physically active by playing a sport, backpacking or engaging in adventurous recreational activities.
Lastly, don’t forget to seek professional help. Talk to a therapist and know your options. Depression does not only affect your work but all other aspects of your life, including your personal and social relationships. Remember that depression is a treatable disorder which many others have been successfully recovered from and you can too.
The goosebumps we get when we listen to music, is mainly caused by the brain releasing dopamine while anticipating the peak moment of a song.
Your heartbeat changes to mimic the music you listen to.
Music has been thought to help cure Parkinson’s Disease. Music Therapy has been shown to energize the network of Neurones.
Negative thoughts and how to beat them
Meditation or doing yoga focusing your attention of breathing and moving so your mind doesn't have to space to focus on negative themes. It helps you stay in the present moment instead of jumping into the future and what might happen, dwelling on past events that haven't turned out how you wanted them, etc.
It really does help change your mood and relieve stress. You can trick your brain into thinking you are happy because you are smiling .... so it starts thinking you are.
3. Surround yourself with positive people
For example, instead of thinking, “We are going to have a hard time adjusting to our living situation,” think, “We will face some challenges in our living situation, but we will come up with solutions that we will both be happy with.”
5. Don’t play the victim. You create your life—take responsibility
6. Help someone
It’s easy to dwell on your mistakes. The voice saying 'I felt terrible that I acted this way' or 'I wasted that opportunity'. The only thing you can do now is learn from your mistakes and move forward.
Try belting out along with the radio. You don't have to remember all the lyrics but the deep breathing involved, the chance to show our feelings and be loud can be an amazing stress relief.
9. List five things that you are grateful for right now
10. Remember this quote
Here's a quote from Winston Churchill:
“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”
I have found it to be very true in my own life. I worry about lots of things which don't ever happen, so when you feel worries starting to pop up ask yourself this:
How many of the things I feared would happen in my life did actually happen? If you are anything like me then the answer will be - very few if any. And the very few ones that actually happened were mostly not as painful or terrible as I had expected. I survived them because I am still here. I got through it. Worries are most often just monsters you build in your own mind. The more time I spend thinking about them, the more they feed on it and grow.
I find that asking myself this question regularly and reminding myself of how little of the worries that actually came to life makes easier and easier to stay calm and to stop a worried thought before it becomes a big snowball of negativity.
Another thing I try to do is to guess what the other person is thinking.
Trying to read someone’s mind usually doesn’t work too well at all. Instead, it can very easily lead to creating an exaggerated and even disastrous scenario in your mind. Try to choose a way that is less likely to lead to worries and misunderstandings. Can't think of a way - try communicating and ask what you want to ask.
By doing so you’ll promote openness in your relationship and it will likely be happier as you avoid many unnecessary conflicts and negativity.
I have also found that people don't spend as much time thinking about what I am doing, how I am getting on with my life or what I plan to do in the future. Most people think a bit like me, of what they are going to cook for tea, their plans for the weekend, buying a loaf of bread on the way home from work or, oops, I forgot to do that thing I meant to do and will try to remember to do it tomorrow. I don't have much thinking space to micro analyse my friends and I guess they are the same to me - they take me as I am!!
If I do have particular worries, I try to nail it straight away by talking it through with a friend. If there isn't anyone around and it can't wait, I journal it (write it down in a book) so it is out of my head. Very often talking it over with a loved one gives it another perspective that I hadn't seen or another angle that makes it easier to think about. Whatever it is, I have found that it usually helps.
Another thing that I do is try to be in the present moment instead of far into the future or ruminating over past conversations or events. When you spend too much time in the future then is also easy to get swept away by disaster scenarios. So focus on spending more of your time and attention in the present moment.
Two of my favorite ways to reconnect with what is happening right now:
A large body of research tells us that happiness go beyond material things.
It’s true that a new car or house, a luxury trip, or some designer clothes and bags can give us an instant feeling of joy and gladness. But the positive emotions brought by these things quickly wane and if we cling on them as our major source of happiness, we could find ourselves lonely, discontented and disconnected at the end of the day.
If it’s not money, fame or fortune, then what makes us happy? There’s no secret formula to lasting happiness. But numerous researches suggest that happiness could be a product of the following things combined together:
An illness doesn’t only drain our wallet, but also destroy our energy and zeal in life. Therefore, the body must be treated well and given its needed nourishment, love and care. When you are healthy, you could focus more on what you do and be able to deal with problems much better. We can opt to live a healthy lifestyle by engaging in regular exercise, getting enough sleep, eating right, and learning to manage stress.
Humans are social beings. Therefore, it is a basic human need to look for affection from others. We all need to feel loved and cared for. It is crucial that we have at least one person to share our life with. Research published in 2001 in the Journal of Counselling Psychology found that people who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression. They also have higher self-esteem, and are more trusting, empathic and cooperative with others. As a result, the number of people who love them increases.
Sufficient Source of Income
As mentioned, happiness goes beyond material things. But in order to have more time on things that give us lasting happiness, we also need to work hard to get a sufficient source of income. This reduces our worries about where to get our basic needs and concentrate more on things that truly matter – like health, family and social relationship. Whilst we can always aim for higher status in life, it should not be our motivation to be happy.
The cliché “the more you give the more you receive” is true. People usually feel good when they donate to charities, help someone in need, and reach out to others. Compassion is critical to happiness. When our hearts are filled with love for others, our sense of well-being dramatically increases. Not only that, it benefits our brain too. A research by Jordan Grafman, a neuroscientist from the National Institute of Health found that the "pleasures centres" in the brain, or the parts that are active when we experience pleasure from food, money or sex, are equally active when we observe someone giving money to charity as when we receive money ourselves.
In life, we should have a clear idea of what our goals are. Goals are what give direction to our lives. They motivate us to do better, keep learning, exceed our limits, and work harder. After setting our goals, we must make a clear plan on how to achieve them.
Without being grateful, it’s very difficult to be happy. A bulk of studies confirms that gratitude is vital to happiness. “Thank you” is a simple yet powerful phrase that can uplift our spirit and touch other people’s lives.
Optimism and Resilience
Seeing the glass half full has a significant effect on our happiness levels. Optimism is what gives us hope to move forward despite the adversities we experience in life. It goes hand in hand with resilience – which is the ability to handle difficulties effectively. The world is full of imperfections. No one in this world has ever experienced any problem at all. Challenges are part of life. But they shouldn’t be a hindrance to our happiness.
Unless we incorporate all these things to our life, we can never be completely happy. Not practising one of them is like forgetting the secret ingredient that makes a recipe stand out. Good health, affection, sustainable income, compassion, defined goals, gratitude and resilience – all these things are essential to happiness. And the good news is that they are something we can learn and master over time.
Building a better relationship - things to try
With all the daily stresses and responsibilities we face each day, it can be easy to lose track of our relationship and get disconnected from our partner. Yes, keeping a relationship strong requires great effort. But there are simple, proven exercises that couples therapists recommend to deepen your relationship and make it more fulfilling.
If you have tried couples therapy before, you probably have encountered several of these.
Many times, a simple conversation could lead to a week-long of cold war or simultaneous arguments. That is why a lot of couples therapy exercises are designed to make both partners ‘active’ listeners. Active listening doesn’t only make discussion of sensitive issues easier, but also allows both of you to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other. When practising active listening, it is important for the speaker to remain focused on a single thought or point, and for the listener to concentrate on sharing their partner’s perspective. Here are simple rules to follow when practising active listening:
Spare a few minutes daily to practise this exercise and see how it can enhance many aspects of your relationship. Whatever the issue is, the best way to practise active listening is to do it with patience and love.
Study after study shows that grateful couples are happier and more resilient. Appreciation is vital to a relationship. But sometimes, especially among long-term couples, appreciating becomes a rare thing. If you’re lacking of this, there’s a very simple exercise that couples therapists recommend and it only requires making a list. Here it goes – daily, for five days, write down things that your partner did for you that you appreciated. They don’t have to be grand. Simple, sweet acts would do, like taking your dog for a walk, watering your plants, preparing your breakfast, making you smile, massaging your pounding head, etc. After the five days, exchange lists.
It is very easy to feel that you are being taken for granted and feel that your partner doesn’t recognise your efforts and the little things you do for him/her. This simple exercise can help both of you see and appreciate small gestures of love and care that you have for each other.
Using Positive Language
Miscommunication is a common problem among couples. Many of us often make false interpretations of what our partner is saying. This can lead to arguments, emotional disconnection and feelings of rejection. Couples therapy exercises can greatly deepen your bond and help you tackle even the most complicated issues without lashing or arguing. One of the best exercises for better communication is using positive language. A good communication exercise is using "you said" and "I heard" statements during conversations. In this exercise, you and your partner take turns repeating the other person’s statement and explaining your own interpretation of the message. Beginning your sentence with “I heard” makes your partner feel that you pay attention to and care about what he or she is saying. Saying these two words is like saying “I’m listening to you because what you have to tell me is important”.
Many times, we get too caught up doing things that we think our partner would really love and appreciate that we forget to ask ourselves – is it what he/she really desires? We need not always do or spend so much to please our special someone. Sometimes, it’s again the little, sweet acts that matter to them. Whilst surprises and gifts are really so romantic – sometimes, it’s the affectionate gestures like running errands for him/her, sitting with your partner to watch the same movie over and over again, or kissing him/her before leaving for work and the moment he/she comes home are enough to make your partner feel loved by you. A great exercise that therapists usually ask couples to do is to write down five things your partner can do, or does to make you feel loved.
Lots of couples stop dating after marriage, which is wrong. Dating is essential to keeping the fire burning and retaining the kind of excitement you both have experienced before. Maintaining relationships require hard work, and can be really stressful at times. Therefore, it is important for you and your partner to relax and unwind. Arranging a trip with your partner can be one great way to practise the above exercises whilst having a little fun. It doesn’t have to be a grand vacation. A simple getaway will do as long as you are in a place where you can relax – away from the things that remind you of your work, responsibilities, and all others that stress you out.
When you already have kids, intimacy becomes much more of a challenge. Intimacy is about being emotionally close to your partner. It’s also about being able to bring your defences down and accept and share in your partner’s thoughts and feelings. It’s about being able to share your “inner world” to this person. Intimacy is basically one of the most rewarding aspects of a relationship. Many couples start out their relationship thinking that they have achieved the highest level of intimacy that they have never experienced before. Yet, as years go by and they go through the highs and lows of marriage, they tend to discover a series of deeper levels in their intimacy. And each discovery only makes their relationship deeper and more rewarding.
A great intimacy builder routine, which you can do daily, involves sitting facing each other and closer that your knees are almost touching. Take a minute or several minutes to look into each other’s eyes. Assess your own reactions and thoughts. And share them with your partner. Feel the moment. Experience the closeness. This exercise is one way to connect with your partner after a hard, tiring and busy day.
Every relationship goes through rough waters. Incorporating all if not some of these basic couples therapy exercises can greatly improve many areas of your relationship and help you and your partner deal with issues more effectively, and grow closer. Marriage counselling exercises can also help you revive intimacy, strengthen the bond between you two, and maintain a healthy, happy and lasting relationship.
Ideas on how to cope at Christmas while coping with a bereavement
Christmas can be a painful time whether it’s your first year without someone who has died, or you were bereaved long ago.
We know that facing Christmas alone, or whilst grieving, can be a daunting prospect. One of the things that can help can be to spend some time trying to work out, well in advance, which arrangements will best suit your needs and the needs of others who share your loss.
Some bereaved people find that they do not wish to celebrate Christmas at all, whilst some find that simply maintaining their routine and celebrating as normal is the best tribute they can pay their loved one. It may feel important to make a special effort to remember the person who has died. This can be as simple as ‘speaking’ to the person, silently or out loud, or it may involve visiting their grave, or a place that was special to them. These can be things that we do alone, or with friends or family. You may have photos or particular memories which you treasure; sharing these with others may be something that brings you together.
We know that people remember and mourn in different ways. Conflict within a family can sometimes arise when we have expectations of how others should grieve, so try to be sensitive to others’ needs, and to talk openly about what will be best for you.
The Christmas period may mean that your normal routine is disrupted, and this can make it easier to forget to look after yourself. Trying to keep to regular patterns of sleeping and eating are small things that can make a difference. We can all drink more on festive occasions, but it’s important to remember that using alcohol to escape the pain of loss provides only very temporary relief. Seeing friends or family, or volunteering for the day, can all help.
As time passes, special occasions like Christmas can help us to begin to focus on happier memories of good times shared in the past. However they can also be difficult, intensely emotional times when we need to look after ourselves and those around us.
There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage.
Even couples who say they are happily married go through ups and downs, occasional fights and misunderstandings. But many end up with divorce not because the love is gone but because they wait until it’s too late to get the help necessary to save their marriage. If the flow of your relationship is going through lots of bumps, consider the following self-help tips to get your marriage back on track.
Identify what the real issues are.
When we are angry at our partner, we tend to dig deeper into the past, looking for the past mistakes they have done to us. This habit however, can stray you away from the real issues your marriage is facing in the moment. Create an honest list of problems that your marriage has, including those you have never brought up yet to your spouse but you think is essential to your relationship.
Assess the weaknesses and strengths of your marriage.
In the past years you were together, what had been the greatest hindrances or issues you encountered? What are the qualities that make your marriage special? What can be done to reduce the issues and increase the quality of your marriage?
Focus on what you can do.
No one likes being told that they are doing things wrong, or that they are a bad person. When dealing with marriage problems, we tend to focus on what our partners should do or change. But this can just lead to further misunderstandings. Try not to focus on your partner’s flaws, rather on what you could do differently.
Stay in the calm zone.
Avoid snide remarks, sarcasm, criticism, anger, blame, accusation, etc. If you really can’t stop yourself from saying hurtful things to your partner during a conversation, then just leave. Get some fresh air. If you let yourself be flown away by your emotions, you might end up saying or doing things you will just regret in the end.
Learn to express concerns constructively.
Avoid beginning your sentence with "You always…” or “You never…” Remember, you must focus on fixing issues on your end. Instead of saying “I would like you to…” say “I would like to…”, or “My concern is…” etc.
Set up conversation rules.
Try not to interrupt until your partner is done speaking, and avoid raising your voice. As for clarification if you need to, so you can check they completely understand what you are trying to tell them or what he or she is trying to tell you.
Create positive experiences together.
Touch more. Kiss more. Smile and laugh more. Talk more. Have sex more often. Spend more time together. Don’t last a day without giving your partner a nice compliment. Give more praise and show more gratitude. Go out for a romantic date. Travel together. Do the things you used to do when you were first dating. One positive experience can overthrow ten negative experiences.
Seek professional help.
Many marriages have been saved by counselling. If you can’t avoid arguing when discussing issues in your marriage, maybe you need the intervention of a qualified therapist.