I am fortunate that each day I get to walk my dog in beautiful countryside much of which belongs to the National Trust. One of our favourite places to walk is Limpsfield Chart. It is a large wooded area that consists of both native and non native trees. There are three main areas of non natives, predominately pines that provide a dense, dark and almost silent space in the woods. These are my dog Theo’s favourite, he rolls in the fallen pine needles and digs in the rotten tree stumps. Not much grows below the top third of the trees as it’s so dark.
Over the last few months there have been ongoing forest operations in the woods. They are stripping out the pine trees with a view to re-plant natives and encourage new growth and wildlife into those dead places.
It looks awful. Great swathes of trees have been cut down, the earth churned by the huge machinery needed to complete the task and branches and small trees have been crushed and lay fallen on the paths.
All of us that use the wood have felt the loss of those trees, of the shelter that they provide from the wind and the sun and the rain. All of us it seems are mourning the loss of what were essentially dead trees. Why? Because change can seem difficult.
Despite knowing that once the forest operations are complete and the replanting finished there will be a beautiful, alive and vibrant wood that will encourage and sustain wildlife it’s hard to trust the process.
For many of us knowing that the benefit of that change will far outweigh the short term turmoil is still not enough to motivate us to fell that first tree. So how do we find the courage to take that first step? Focus on your desired outcome. Think about your future just as you want it. Think about the things that you will be doing, the ways you will be behaving, how you will feel differently.
Somewhere in the near future once the forest operations are complete, all of us that use the wood will benefit from the changes that clearing out the dead wood will create.
Do you ever feel your thoughts are out of control?
Are you in a never ending circle of worry about something you should have done or something you should not have done? Are money worries, work worries or relationship worries filling your head?
It can seem impossible to think about anything else and for most of us the only option seems to be to try to push these thoughts out of our minds.
Unfortunately, studies have shown that thought suppression does not work. Trying to push thoughts from our minds just makes them come back stronger. It’s a bit like saying to someone don’t think of a pink elephant. What’s the first thing you think of? Yep a pink elephant.
So, what can we do instead?
Try these top tips
Although suppressing a thought isn’t a good idea long term as it increases its intensity you can delay it.
Creating a 30 minute ‘worry period’ can be effective and bypass the need to suppress.
Knowing that you have a specific time where you are allowed to actively worry can allow your mind to relax the rest of the time.
Focussed worry in this way can be beneficial so why not set up your own ‘worry schedule’.
2. Paradoxical therapy.
Do you feel you need something a bit more hard-core? Then concentrate on the worry. This principle is based on the long-established practice of ‘exposure therapy’. By exposing ourselves slowly but regularly to something we fear it enables the fear to fade.
This method, research suggests can be particularly effective when tacking obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviour.
If boot camp style isn’t your thing then why not try acceptance instead. Although it some ways it’s similar to Paradoxical therapy it is a much gentler approach.
Accepting that you have unwanted thoughts can be the first step in letting them go.
Imagine that you are looking up at a blue sky, your unwanted thoughts are the grey clouds passing overhead. You can’t make those clouds disappear you just have to watch and wait for them to pass so that you can see the blue sky again.
4. Focus on your good points.
Studies have shown that by recognising and focusing on all the good qualities we have it can increase our social confidence and improve self control.
This can have a knock on effect and help us manage our negative thoughts. So why not get a pen and paper and write down all the wonderful qualities you have?
5. Avoid Stress.
Although it may seem like a good idea to have so much to do or to think about so that you don’t have time to think about ‘the thing’ it isn’t an effective strategy.
Studies show that the more stressed we become the more likely it is for unwanted thoughts to resurface, so find some time to relax each day.
Want to know the science behind this? Have a look at the research here.
Do you have any tips that you would like to share? We would love to hear from you so why not drop us a comment?
As Valentine’s day approaches the next few weeks will be dedicated to tips and ideas on how to improve your relationships.
So this week I thought I would dive right in with the most important relationship you’ll ever have. It’s not your partner, your children or your parents, it is of course, with yourself.
Many of us spend a lot of time worrying about other people, being kind to strangers, meeting the needs of our significant others but not many of us spend time on maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves.
It can be easy to overlook how important our relationship with ourselves is. Often we are less than kind to ourselves. We use bullying tactics to get ourselves to work harder, do more and improve. We lose patience, criticise ourselves and are often unforgiving of our mistakes. We have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and to make matters worse these thoughts and behaviours are often so habitual we don’t even know that we are doing them.
So what’s the first step to improving our relationship with ourselves. Although it can be an uncomfortable process, understanding what you really think about yourself is a good place to begin. Spend some time thinking about yourself or write yourself a letter outlining all the positives and negative aspects that you think you have, you may be surprised what you uncover.
A healthy self-relationship starts with recognising and accepting both your strengths and weaknesses as they are often just two sides of the same coin. If you believe that you are disorganised, untidy and hectic you may find that the flip side of that particular coin is that you are creative, spontaneous and energetic.
Having a good relationship with yourself isn’t about being selfish. It’s about have the same respect, care and consideration that you have for other people. So here are our top tips for building a good relationship with yourself.
1. Talk to yourself as you would talk to your best friend.
Do you ever call yourself names or make unkind comments about your appearance or your capabilities? Would you say the same thing to your best friend? If you did would they stay your best friend?
Be mindful of the way you speak to yourself – a kind word, encouragement or even some sympathy goes a long way to making other people feel better about themselves it will do the same for you.
2. Care for your own needs.
Recognise when you need to rest, slow down or sleep. Nurturing yourself by meeting your own needs is one of the simplest and most powerful things you can do for yourself. Feeling tired then take a rest, if that voice in your heads starts to bully you or make you feel guilty then you are not talking to yourself as a friend. What would you say to someone else in the same situation?
3. Do something just for you.
Ever wanted to learn flamenco dancing or try your hand at wine tasting? Then give it a go. Fun is an important element in developing a good relationship so include it in yours.
4. Treat Yourself.
This isn’t about spending a fortune internet shopping. This is about small treats that you can do guilt free. A walk in the park, a small bar of chocolate, a long bath or a frothy coffee with a friend.
5. Understand yourself.
The more you understand about yourself the easier it is to know how to nurture a positive relationship so next week we are going to look at personality types and how they can give you an insight into how to meet your own needs.
The public view on smoking has changed dramatically over the last 100 years. Once promoted by sportsmen and seen regularly in films and on television it was considered cool and sexy.
Today, smoking is seen as a nasty, smelly, addictive habit that not only damages the health of the person that smokes but the health of those around them as well. It has become number 1 on the anti social things to do list.
Maybe you’ve heard this all before, perhaps you’ve even tried stopping before? Get involved in the NHS Stoptober campaign.
If you have made the decision to quit here are a few additional tips to help you stay on track.
Know why you are quitting.
- Be clear about your motivation to stop it will help to keep you focused.
- Write a list of all the reasons you want to quit and look at it every day
- Focus on the benefits of quitting
- We often perform habits unconsciously. It becomes so much part of what we do we no longer have to think about how to do it.
- Becoming aware of our habits helps us be more in control of them.
- If you have set a quit date change as much about your smoking habit as you can in the week leading up to it. Making it unfamiliar or uncomfortable can help break the pattern for good.
1. If you have a preferred hand that you smoke with then change hands.
2. If you usually have a cigarette with your cup of coffee try having it with a glass of water instead.
3. Make your cigarettes hard to get to. Put them in the room farthest from you so that you have to make the effort to go and get them.
4. If you usually have a cigarette as soon as you wake up make yourself wait 15 minutes.
5. Anytime you smoke being engaged in the activity – don’t allow your mind to wander focus on smoking.
- Make a commitment to stop. People often say ‘I’ll try to give up’, – commit wholeheartedly to it ‘I will stop.’
Whether you are motivated by better health, more money or just proving to yourself that you can do it. Did you know that you are 5 times more likely to stop smoking with the help of hypnotherapy. Why not launch your very own success story in Stoptober.
As I finally sit down to write this blog I realise that I’ve been procrastinating. The beds have been changed, the washing is in the machine. I’ve played with the dog, checked my e-mails and now I find that I’m running out of excuses, although I do feel the need for another cup of tea!
Everyone procrastinates sometimes but if you find that you regularly avoid difficult or challenging tasks and actively look for distractions then you may be a chronic procrastinator. With around twenty per cent of the population admitting to frequently putting things off you are not alone.
For most of us the odd bout of procrastination is harmless but for those that are chronically affected it can be destructive and can prevent them from fulfilling their potential.
So how do you know if you are a procrastinator or just very good at prioritising? Here are some useful indicators that will help you identify whether you’re a procrastinator or not.
- If you sit down to start a high priority task and then immediately finding something else to do, like make a cup of tea.
- If you overestimating the time you have in order to complete a task
- If you ignore an item on your to do list for several days even though you know it’s important.
- If you underestimating the time it takes to complete a task.
- If you complete a lot of low priority tasks instead of the high priority one.
- If you read and re reading e-mails without acting on them or making a decision about what to do with them.
- If you overestimate how motivated you will feel to do a task… in an hour, a day, next week etc.
- If you believe that working when not in the mood is a bad idea.
If you say ‘yes’ to unimportant tasks on a regular basis instead of getting on with what you should be doing.
- If you believe that in order to complete a task you need to feel like doing it.
So if it’s so bad for us why do we do it? Dr Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago argues that people procrastinate for different reasons and has identified three basic types.
- Thrill seekers who need that last minute rush.
- Avoiders who may be putting things off through a fear or failure or success and who would rather have other people believe in their lack of effort rather than their lack of ability.
- Those that can’t make a decision because by not making a decision they cannot be held responsible for the outcome.
Further research suggests that we procrastinate partly because we find the task at hand unpleasant in some way and partly because we are not confident in our ability to perform it which ties in with Ferrari’s point.
However at the core of procrastination says Dr Piers Steel, a professor at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business is our impulsiveness – we don’t like waiting for rewards.
Temptations like a cup of tea or updating facebook are attractive because although the reward is small the delay is virtually nonexistent. In contrast although writing an article or saving for retirement have potentially large rewards they are so distant that they seem unimportant. We only become motivated to do them when time brings them closer and they become more of an immediate task.
Whatever the reasons behind procrastination the results are often the same. Procrastination creates a cycle of anxiety, avoidance, guilt and inadequacy. The good news is that you can create strategies that help.
To avoid procrastination make your goals small, immediate and easily accessible.
Create your own rewards. Anything from checking e-mails to having a biscuit after you’ve completed your task can be seen as a reward
Peer pressure works. Get someone to check that you have completed your task.
Rather than think about doing the task, think about the unpleasant consequences of not doing it.
When you set yourself goals put a time to complete on them. You are more likely to work towards a deadline especially if that deadline is approaching.
If your task seems overwhelming cut it down into bite size pieces.
Focus on how good you will feel after you’ve completed it.
There are various reasons why you may find yourself procrastinating. Once you’ve recognised that you are doing it you may be able to understand why and build strategies to help yourself overcome it. It may not happen overnight but like all behaviour that becomes habitual it can be changed if you are persistent.
‘ We can all be procrastinators, but does that have to result in procrastinating behaviour? It doesn’t, if you recognize your own limitations.’ Dr Steel.