Mind your head

Ready for my second cappucino I walked downstairs at Costa’s ducking below the low beam. At the counter I picked up the coffee and the glass of water I’d asked for. I carefully lifted both the cup and glass and walked towards the stair to go back up to my seat.

I was impressed with how steady my hands were and said to myself “Not bad for a 49 year old … nearly at my half-century … it’s all downhill from here”. I caught myself in the unhelpful thought and lifted my head in time to read the warning sign on the low beam I had ducked earlier.

“Please mind your head”

It would have been better if it had said:

“Please mind the inside of your head”

Which seems to me to be much more useful advice. How often are you minding the inside of your head for unhelpful thoughts and predictions.

Years ago I listened to a program early one Sunday morning on Radio 4. The interviewer was talking to a bee farmer who was reminisicing about her various experiences. She was now in her eighties and had enjoyed a very full life. The presenter looked around her sitting room at the various souveniers of holidays she had had. His eye came to rest on a photograph on the mantlepiece, a photo of the woman waterskiing on Lake Windermere. He asked about it.

“Oh, yes!”, she said, “that was my 80th birthday present”.

“Wow” replied the presenter, “you’ve done all these amazing things what is the best thing you have ever done in your life?”.

“Oh, I don’t think like that” she said “as far as I’m concerned the best is always ahead of me!”

After a stunned silence the presenter said: “That is the single most optimistic think I have heard in my life”

It’s certainly a lot better than “it’s all downhill from here …”

Garden for Happiness

The warmer weather prompts me to repost this article by my good friend Masha Bennett

Having been a horticulturist in my “past life”, I would like to include some leafy and flowery thoughts to contribute to your happiness and well-being. It is well known that gardening can be therapeutic – but no tips on digging or pruning in this article, you may be pleased to know! Instead, I will try to share my ideas on how to get the most enjoyment and pleasure from your own (or someone else’s, for that matter) garden.

Read more

Counting your blessings

thank-you-2.jpgWhen I was growing up my Mum and Dad often used to say to us: “You should count your blessings”.

I think they were right that I had a lot of blessings to count. Now that I’m older and more aware of what’s going on in the world I can see that my ‘cup runneth over’ in ways that would boggle the mind of some people in the developing world.

Now I think they missed a golden opportunity. “Count your blessings” was good advice, at least it tells you what to do. Unfortunately it wasn’t very specific about how I should count my blessings.

If they had said “You should count your blessings, and here’s how …” then shown me a simple way to do that then they would have set me up for life. At the time I never thought at the time to ask “How exactly do I do that?”

Reflecting on the good things in our lives or cultivating a sense of gratitude is advice as old as the hills and the sages who lived in them. There is now good evidence that cultivating gratitude has a large number of mental (and physical) health benefits.

In a study by Martin Seligman* more than 400 volunteers took part in the following exercise:

Three good things in life: Participants were asked to write down three things that went well that day and their causes every night for a week. In addition they were asked to provide a causal explanation for each thing.

After just one week of doing these exercises they were followed up for six months. Those who ‘counted their blessings’ in this way for just one week became happier and less depressed and stayed that way for at least six-months after the experiment.

Not surprisingly they found that those participants who enjoyed the gratitude exercise and continued with it past the official time period were the ones that felt the happiest

What would it be like if you integrated this process into your daily routine?

One way of looking at this is that you are training your brain to look out for the good things in your experience. To become the person who sees the glass being half full rather than half empty. People who habitually ‘sort for good’ tend to be happier, healthier and more resilient.

Unfortunately for us our culture and media are strongly encouraging us to ‘sort for bad’, to notice what is wrong and unsatisfactory. Often so they can sell us something to make you feel better. By being more grateful and cheerful you may be going a little against the tide. There might not be as many people swimming in that direction but the company is good.

Here are the instructions again.

Every evening make a written list of at least three enjoyable or satisfying experiences you had during the day. They don’t have to be extraordinary events something as simple as enjoying the first cup of tea of the day would do. Write this down and write a sentence explaining why you are grateful for this. That’s it. Nothing complicated. Do this regularly and notice what you notice.

*Positive Psychology Progress, Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson, American Psychologist, July-August 2005

EFT Level 1 in Newcastle

On Saturday July 12th I will be running an EFT Level 1 training at St Oswald’s Hospice, Newcastle. This is the introductory level of EFT training and equips you with the skills to use EFT to work on your own issues and those of your family and friends.

It’s a hands-on training with lots of supervised practice, you’ll soon be using EFT for yourself, and you may be surprised at just how quick, effective and painless it can be for a wide variety of issues.

This full days training costs just £60. Email andy@practicalwellbeing.co.uk for an application form.

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