Rhythm

Recently I have been personally challenged by the concept of rhythm.  Rhythm in many different parts of my life; personal relationships, physical movement, spiritual growth and professional development to name just a few.  It’s not a word I’ve generally associated with these activities but for some reason, at present, I’m drawn to it.

As a psychologist in private practice, I often notice that periods of low mental health can often be characterised by a lack, or a loss, of rhythm.  This may be due to an unforeseen or tragic circumstance which has thrown us off course or a life transition such as starting university, retirement or becoming a parent.  It may also be due to sheer exhaustion, cumulative stress or a loss of meaning in one aspect of our life.  And let’s not forget the small things; a physical injury that alters our exercise routine,  a change in the way things are done at work, a close friend moving away. All these, and more, can contribute to a loss of rhythm.

We all live to our own beat.  A beat that changes as we change, that adapts to the activity and is unique to you. Whether it be fast, slow or syncopated, it is somewhat repetitive; a pattern that regularly re-occurs.  Similar to hearing our favourite song, there is a certain comfort in being able to anticipate the rhythm as it gives us a fair idea of what comes next.  When we can see a short way ahead, it helps us to “know”. This knowing gives us a sense of control and allows us to plan.  When we know how some things in our day or week look, we can initiate them automatically, almost without thinking; for example starting each day in the same way or allocating Monday for this and Tuesday for that. Such a routine would significantly decrease how much thinking we do about the future and enable us to be more mindful of the existing moment.

To consolidate, think about the experience of lacking routine when a new year begins. After returning from a holiday break, we find various demands and opportunities abound. The mornings may feel a bit chaotic or uncertain with questions like “how will today work?” or “what should I do next?”  After a while, once we’ve bumbled around in a stop-start sort of way, we work out what is essential and what is simply nice to do.  This forms our two contrasting elements which are also essential for rhythm.  Just as music will have an upbeat and a downbeat or long and short notes, our life rhythms require opposites like “need to do” and “want to do”.  Both are important; they provide enough fluctuation to keep life interesting.  If we only do what is absolutely necessary and never allow time for ourselves or plan enjoyable activities, then we are left with a fairly dull or exhausting beat.

This then begs the question: is there a difference between rhythm and routine?  To this, I would say “yes”.  A life that is balanced with both work and play (need to do and want to do) is often a practical base for positive mental health.  Routine is the regular procedure, the unchanging, steady beat,  sometimes described as “the daily grind”.  Rhythm, however, is what syncopates this beat; it gives our life momentum, interest or challenge, and keeps us moving forward.   If we are to see rhythm in our lives, we need to ask ourselves “what energises me?”, “what gives my life meaning?” or “what is it that I really LIKE to do?”.  Perhaps it is friends or family, keeping fit, playing music, learning new things, having fun or giving to others.  We are all unique in what brings us joy and motivates us…what is it for you?

Take a moment here to identify these for yourself.

Then…of course, because these things make us feel good, we want them to keep happening so we can rely on them.  So plan some ‘want to do’s’ into your routine.  Maybe daily, weekly or six-monthly – it will depend on what it is.

Go on…plan it.  If you don’t, then quite possibly it won’t happen.

My sense is that we enjoy and appreciate the good things in our life when it’s not the only thing we do.  We need that steady beat in the background that gives our life structure and predictability.  Yet we make it more interesting and purposeful when we add our personal flair to it.  May you discover your own personal rhythms, giving life to your routines.

 

Definition sources: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/routine  http://www.thefreedictionary.com/rhythm                                              http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/syncopate

Thinking there is perfection is your first imperfection (the first of many)

i-can-t-keep-calm-i-m-a-perfectionistHi, my name is Alison and I am a perfectionist. Actually, let me rephrase that. I’m a recovering perfectionist. Take it from me, the road to recovery from perfectionism is a long and difficult one. Why is perfectionism such a problem that warrants recovery and repair? Does this not mean that I’m a high achiever on the healthy pursuit of excellence, destined for greatness?

Well my friends I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but perfectionism does not in any way resemble the healthy pursuit of anything. It is not healthy. Fullstop. It is actually quite harmful. Perfectionism can seem like a positive trait. It can make you seem smarter, more switched on or driven to succeed in life. Yes, often the perfectionist can present this way. But there is another side to perfectionism that is far less enticing, less rewarding and far more damaging.

Let me take you behind the scenes on some of the core beliefs behind this insidious trait. As a perfectionist:
1. You are motivated by the fear of failure or a sense of duty.
2. You feel driven to be number one, but your accomplishments, however great, never really satisfy you.
3. You feel you must earn your self-esteem. You think you must be very ‘special’ or intelligent or successful to be loved and accepted by others.
4. You are TERRIFIED by failure. If you do not achieve an important goal, you feel like a failure as a human being.
5. You think you must always be strong and in control of your emotions. You are reluctant to share vulnerable feelings like sadness, insecurity or anger with others. You believe they would think less of you.

Basically, perfectionism hampers success. It can lead you on a path towards depression, anxiety, addiction and life paralysis (defined as all the opportunities you have missed out on due to fear of putting anything out there that is imperfect).

These beliefs are incredibly negative and self-deprecating in nature and are inherently different to a healthy mental structure for screening and perceiving information. On the opposite end of the spectrum to perfectionism is the healthy pursuit of excellence, and this is where:
1. You are motivated by enthusiasm and you find the creative process exhilarating.
2. Your efforts give you feelings of satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment, even if you aren’t always ‘the greatest’.
3. You enjoy a sense of unconditional self-esteem. You do not feel you have to earn love and friendship by impressing people with your intelligence or your success.
4. You are not afraid to fail because you realise that no one can be successful all the time. Although failure is disappointing, you see it as an opportunity for growth and learning.
5. You’re not afraid of being vulnerable or sharing your feelings with people you care about. This makes you feel closer to them.

Brene Brown, a well known author of the bestseller, The Gifts of Imperfection, states that the journey towards letting go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embracing who you are starts with learning how to live a wholehearted life. Courage, compassion and connection, as the ‘gifts’ of imperfection, help you embrace your beautifully imperfect world and help you start to embrace worthiness. But don’t be fooled by these seemingly lofty ideas. The training in the use of these concepts involves practice. The art of repetition many times every single day. Not when you’ve gotten through your to-do list or when you have a spare few minutes (because let’s face it, you’re a perfectionist with a to-do list longer than you’re life span allows), but as a priority.

Here are some examples of how and what to practice.

1. Strive for a healthy outlook on life. Start and end each day with reading, watching or listening to something that inspires you.
2. Practice warmth and kindness towards yourself when you feel inadequate. Remember, imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders we are all in this together.
3. Tell yourself you are good enough just as you are. For example, at the start of your day say to yourself ‘Today, I’m going to believe that showing up is enough”.
4. Focus on forgiveness rather than bitterness. Be the ‘benefit’ finder rather than the ‘fault’ finder.
5. Work on stillness using mindfulness strategies at times when you feel vulnerable or fearful. By practicing mindfulness you will learn to roll with negative feelings so they stop having control over you. Your aim is not to be anxiety free, but to be anxiety aware.
6. Rather than being defensive, work on being open to suggestions. Embrace your flaws and learn to laugh at yourself by making your mistakes humorous and light-hearted.
7. When problems arise, focus on your sphere of influence. What is in your control to change? Move away from chronic worry that circles around in your head for days. Move into problem solving mode as quickly as you can.
8. Realise you can do one thing ‘perfect’ or many things well. Make a choice to let things go in order to increase your growth and learning.

It’s amazing how implementing such basic changes to your thinking and outlook can move you closer towards excellence from perfectionism. And if your perfectionistic brain thinks it’s not going to work so why bother, then I challenge you to challenge this faulty logic that keeps you stuck in ‘black and white’ or rigid thinking. For the richest, most beautiful and pleasing colour in the world my friends is ‘shades of grey’. That’s right. Shades of grey that go between the black and the white. This resembles flexibility and adaptability. By embracing flexibility, you have a chance to enjoy your life for what it is, in all its imperfect glory. In the words of Albert Einstein:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,
it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”.

So, I will keep going on my journey and I wish you all the best of luck on yours. Remember, we cannot cross the sea merely by staring at the water. Positive change is no accident. It comes from hard work, perseverance and a little bit of love.

References:

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. 2010.

The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns. 1989.

The Pursuit of Perfect- How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life by T. Ben-Shahar, 2009.

By: Alison Lenehan, Psychologist.

Walk and Talk or… Walk or Talk?

I recently read an article about a psychologist who walks with her clients. A kind of walk and talk therapy. I was drawn to it for a number of reasons, not least because I love to walk myself. My own experience of regular walking has a number of facets. Perhaps you can relate to some of these benefits:

  1. It’s a quiet time to think. Blissful uninterrupted thought! No electronic devices alerting me to messages I’m expected to respond to, no children needing assistance and no knocks on the door or phone calls.
  2. It’s outdoors, in fresh air and natural light. A chance to get in touch with the weather, the seasons, and the changes in our local landscape.
  3. It energizes. Many a morning I’ve felt sluggish to start with, only to find after 20mins that I’m somehow walking faster or with more of a rhythm. By the time I get home, I’m significantly more motivated than if I hadn’t walked at all.
  4. Sometimes it’s social. A walk together provides a way of seeing a friend and exercizing at the same time. A win-win all round, which also provides a bit of accountability to either exercize or simply connect. A chance to ask that wonderful Mental Health promoting question “Are you OK?” [1]
  5. Sometimes it’s therapeutic. Whether I’m talking or thinking to myself on a solo walk or I’m with a friend and we’re talking and listening to each other; both have benefits. If I’m alone, I sense that I’m being heard in a spiritual sense and in the second case there is much value in simply being listened to in an accepting and non-judgemental manner (and doing the same for my friend).

A number of these listed benefits are also grounded in research. Thirty minutes of moderate exercize (ie: brisk walking or other) on most days of the week can be an adequate treatment alone for non-melancholic depression[2]. I even read somewhere that just 15mins of exercize per day can increase your life expectancy by 3yrs! Interesting also that the environment in which we walk can have an impact. For example, a recent study comparing walks in nature and walks in urban settings found that the brain was affected differently. Nature walks, by comparison, significantly decreased ruination, anxiety and negative affect and increased working memory’s performance[3]. This would explain the growing number of walk-talk therapists in New York’s Central Park!

It has got me thinking about different scenarios, and what might warrant a ‘walk and talk’ therapy session with a psychologist, versus a situation where a walk on one’s own or with a friend might simply be enough to lift our mood and help us to feel more OK. There’s no particular right or wrong answer here although there are some points I’d like to raise:

  1. Walking has a number of physical and psychological benefits all on it’s own. Taking the initiative yourself is not only going to make you feel more energised, it’s more likely to enhance your sense of control over your own well-being thereby raising one’s self-esteem with the feeling “I can do it”.
  2. Sitting with a psychologist also brings opportunities for the change we want to see in our lives. It’s fairly normal to get a bit stuck sometimes and this can also be a way of taking initiative.
  3. The two can work together well if a person is also struggling to get moving, reluctant to get out of the house or lacking in opportunities for fresh air and sunlight.

Other ways in which walking with a psychologist might be more beneficial than walking on one’s own or with a friend might be:

  1. If you’d prefer not to be alone or you find it difficult to find someone to walk with;
  2. If you find it difficult to talk very deeply about yourself with people you know. Confidentiality is a very important factor in these delicate moments of revealing one’s inner self;
  3. If you find that a session in an office is a little too formal or confronting and perhaps the relaxed ‘side by side’ approach is more appealing;
  4. Sometimes walking gets you talking and hopefully thinking out loud. In this case, a psychologist might be able to pick up some repetitive or unhelpful thoughts and challenge them, or guide you into more helpful ways of thinking;
  5. If you find it hard to stop and be still, take in your surroundings, and simply breathe in the fresh air then a psychologist can guide you in some simple mindfulness practices – giving your brain a lot more oxygen and a little mini-holiday – thereby showing you some techniques to practice that might enhance your own well-being.
  6. If you feel that you just need be heard. The non-judgemental and empathetic ear of somebody trained to listen can have more value than you might think.

Walking, as you know, is all about movement. The very act of putting one foot in front of the other symbolises a desire for movement or change; a hope that things won’t stay the same. The feeling of being stagnant or standing in the one place can make us feel like we’re going nowhere and this may frustrate us. Perhaps we don’t even realise that we are being stationary. Sometimes, there is so much going on in our head or our heart that it feels very busy or heavy and we just feel tired all the time.   At first it will be hard to get going but, usually, when we physically start to move then we create hope for movement elsewhere in ourselves.

So if that’s the physical movement, what other kinds of movement might we be looking for that a psychologist could help us with? Metaphorically speaking:

Cognitive: Perhaps our worries or thoughts are all consuming and we need to get unstuck.

Behavioural: Often we imagine that doing something different or changing our environment or routine might be good for us. We’re probably right!

Emotional: The Latin derivative of the word emotion is ‘out’ + ‘move’. So…idealistically speaking…if we’re out moving about then we’re creating space for emotional change. Seeing a psychologist could get both your body and your emotions out and moving.

Directional: In some stages of life, it’s normal to be unsure about what to do or where to go in life. Sometimes just getting going ‘somewhere’ can kick off the process of movement and get us thinking about the bigger picture of our own lives.

Walking as a form of exercize is one way to create movement in our lives but there are also others. One very specific way of walking which has been described as having therapeutic or stress relieving benefits is to walk a Labyrinth. This is an ancient construct and pattern used for meditative walking. It is also used in the modern day and in recent years is gaining renewed interest and momentum[4]. The contemplative journey of the labyrinth calls people to let go of their worries as they enter in, to receive a peace and calm as they pause at the centre, and to resolve to engage with the world in a new way as they walk out. Considering that the labyrinth is generally walked without talking, I’ll have to write a separate blog on that subject.

In the meantime, enjoy your walking OR your talking and if you decide you’d like to do both then suggest it to your therapist.

 

[1] https://www.sane.org/releases-2011/1026-are-you-okay

[2] http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/Exerciseanddepression.pdf

[3] http://walking.about.com/od/mindandspirit/ss/A-Nature-Walk-is-a-Great-Prescription-for-Your-Brain.htm

[4] for more information see http://www.sydneylabyrinth.org/faq/

 

Being Positive and Resilient. What does it mean?

Positive Psychology and Resilience

Lyn Worsley

Clinical Psychologist and Director of the Resilience Centre

Clinical Psychologist and Director of the Resilience Centre

Clinical Psychologist.

Over the past month I had the pleasure of attending two amazing conferences on the other side of the world. The first one was the Pathways to Resilience conference in Halifax, Canada, and the second one was the International Positive Psychology Association’s fourth World Congress in Orlando Florida, USA.

Both of these conferences focused on measuring what was working, and building on it. The Resilience Centre was well represented as presented the findings of our group programs, Connect-3 and Linked-up which are based on the Resilience Doughnut model. The findings were that clients attending the groups have positive changes in their self-esteem, social skills and personal competence. We were also able to show the positive changes in family functioning as a result of the group programs.

At each of the conferences it was great to be part of a growing movement of looking for strengths and measuring the positive changes. Speakers amplified the study of character strengths and pro social community engagement.

To kick off the congress in the USA, the prominent psychologist, Martin Seligman gave an opening plenary titled Unravelling Learned Helplessness: Fifty years later.” (Learned helplessness is the phenomena observed when someone is exposed to continual uncontrollable situations they become helpless and lose their ability to gain control even after the trauma is removed.)

Seligman discussed the findings from the lab rats data colleagues are currently collecting. He courageously announced new findings based on rat brain studies that suggest that his own theory of learned helplessness is NOT in fact correct.

So here goes ill try and explain it.

It has been found that in a section of the brain, (the Dorsal Raphe Nucleus, DRN) is linked to passivity. When the DRN circuit is inactivated experimentally, rats do not become helpless, even when shocked. When the DRN is activated even without shock the rats become passive. Thus the DRN appears to be both necessary and sufficient for producing the passive behaviours called learned helplessness.

 Now stay with me here, it actually does get interesting!

In the studies they also found there to be another area in the brain (the Ventro medial prefrontal cortex (VMPRC) that can inhibit the DRN in order to block the passive response. Seligman referred to the connection between the DRN and the VMPRC as the HOPE CIRCUIT. This circuit is now the interest and focus of much of the studies in positive psychology.

Basically, if the circuit is blocked, rats will be passive even if they are able to escape. If this circuit is active, the rats persevere even after being shocked. He also noted that the circuit can be strengthened.

Based on this work, Seligman concluded that alleviating catastrophe can’t fix people. Instead it is important to work on building expectations of control and mastery, that is, building the hope circuit. This relates to building prospection, where people are guided by their internal representations of possible future states and are thus drawn into the future, rather looking back at the past. These findings have implications for education and therapy.

So I became very interested at this points because…

 At the Resilience Centre we, as psychologists, practice therapy that builds hope, and focuses on the future possibilities rather than focusing on the problems. We have shown this to be helpful in achieving positive change for out clients, and our measures support this. Our groups are solution focused groups, and during our therapy sessions and in our professional development sessions we often ask ourselves, what is working and how can we build on this to develop control and mastery for our clients. We run solution focused training groups, hot topics where we show clients how to be solution focused in their approach and small groups where we can practice the skills of solution focused thinking. Presently we are working on whole school programs that teach the skills of speaking in a solution-focused way to students and colleagues. These programs are showing increased student engagement, and a more resilient school community.

So I found the findings of these rat studies confirming of why what we are doing at the Resilience Centre actually works.

Finally on a practical front, Selgman noted that there are simple experiments with people that have had dramatic effect. These experiments get people to choose positive words over negative words and say them out loud. He even showed a “wordle” based on the words used by hopeful people on their social media pages. Take a look at it.wordle

This got me thinking about my own face book posts. Are they positive? I might actually go and wordle it myself. What about yours?

 

 

Mental health treatment: 7 truths for the journey towards healing

I came across a pretty inspiring book the other day. The book, Beating Bipolar, by Blake Levine, was located during my search to help a client who seemed to be stuck processing her bipolar disorder diagnosis. Recalling his own story of his healing journey, Levine provides an impressive account of how he managed to turn his bipolar diagnosis into strength by guiding others with this illness as a professional life coach.

Bipolar disorder is a condition previously termed ‘manic depression’ because the person experiences periods of depression and periods of mania, with periods of normal mood in between. Mania can involve racing thoughts and speech, irritability and little need for sleep that is not just a fleeting experience. Sometimes the person loses touch with reality and has episodes of psychosis involving hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there) or delusions (for e.g. the person believing he or she has superpowers). The combination of mania and depression can feel like a dangerous and destructive emotional rollercoaster.

Bipolar disorder, and in fact any mental illness, is described by Levine as a disease of choices. You can choose to take one path or another, and there will be many crossroads along the way. Ultimately, you have to choose whether you will stay stuck inside your own world of pain, or whether you are prepared to work towards emotional stability. This is your choice to make and no one can make it for you. As Levine notes, you cannot pop a pill and declare yourself well. Proper healing is not that simple. True, genuine healing is about being selective of how to live your life and adhering to those values.

In the process of exploring, learning and eventually accepting what it means to have a mental health condition, the book asks an individual to answer 7 truths. They are:

1. Accept or reject your illness. Any doctor or psychologist can give a diagnosis and tell you all about it, but you have to be the one to acknowledge it. And that takes an incredible amount of courage. Not for the sake of accepting a ‘label’ but rather in order to seek the correct treatment. By not being invested enough to take on the meaning of the diagnosis, chances are you will become stuck.

2. Accept or reject the work that comes with bipolar disorder (or your diagnosis). Life with a mental health condition can be so challenging that it appears insurmountable and unfair. It is true that maneuvering through substandard mental health units is devastating (and at times traumatising) for most people. However, being able to overcome the setbacks and learn from them, in order to continue to work towards emotional stability (and avoid inpatient mental health units in the process) creates an inner strength that will be able to see you through the lowest points of your life.

3. Accept or reject that you will most likely need medication. For bipolar, medication to tame the mania and lift the depression (and therefore bring increased emotional stability) can be highly effective. However, only if it is used consistently by sticking to the regime over time. Medication must be maintained even when you start to feel better. Finding the right combination takes time, persistence and patience (and close monitoring by your psychiatrist or treating doctor). Weight gain, a common side effect of medication, can throw extra challenges your way, however until emotional stability is achieved, attaining other goals will be futile.

4. Accept or reject that you’ll need therapy and peer support. Levine writes “We share many trials as bipolar individuals, but isolation may be the most profound among them. Feeling alone is a universal experience for people with any mental illness, particularly this one. Not surprisingly, there are many reasons for it. Perhaps you’re too embarrassed about your mood swings and the past damage linked to your illness that you don’t reach out to others. Or maybe you have too many bottled up feelings stemming from other personal baggage to connect easily. Whatever the driving force, working with a mental health professional will help you sort out your issues and learn to connect with people”.

5. Accept or reject that your family’s participation and role in your life and illness might have to be modified to suit your healing. Emotionally stable people have a support network. We all need one, no exceptions. If you have nourishing, strong bonds with your family members, they will play a crucial role in your healing. However, there could also be some family dynamics causing considerable pain and stress and you will be the one to decide whether you can rely on the people in your current network for the long haul. If there are things getting in the way of your connection with them then you will need to find and create a different type of support system. This need is critical for living life in a connected way.

6. Accept or reject that you have to change aspects of your lifestyle. The reality of the situation is this: your mental health condition and any medications you are on do not mix well with drinking and substance abuse. These both cloud your thinking and impair your decision making. If your moods are not regulated yet, they can be lethal. Even having a drink now and then should be discussed with your doctor. Abstinence or moderation combined with a healthy diet, exercise and plenty of sleep are part of living healthy with a mental health condition.

7. Accept or reject that Bipolar (or your diagnosis) isn’t an end; it’s a beginning. The choice is yours. Levine states that the knee jerk reaction to mental illness is to run, particularly if you feel there is nothing to be gained by fighting. But he states that every time we experience pain, we have a chance to see that our struggles in our lives are put here in order to teach us lessons and help us grow. You are stronger than you think, and as long as you have courage, you will face whatever comes your way. The payoff, according to Levine, is to have a life filled with the affirming 4 H’s:
Hope
Health
Happiness
Healing
Whatever your individual journey and constraints, to work towards wellness will allow you to master your illness and your life, and that has to be worth the fight. Staying balanced takes time, patience and unwavering commitment, however hopefully if you are up for the task you too can start the healing journey right now, without wasting another minute, by listening to, exploring and accepting some of these truths. I wish you wellness and great success in your quest for what we are all searching for in life: Hope, Health, Happiness and Healing.

Sources:
Beating Bipolar by Blake Levine
Beyond Blue www.beyondblue.org.au

By: Alison Lenehan
Psychologist

Just “Be happy” ?

by May Lim
Registered Psychologist
Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre

 

happiness

When someone says to you “Be happy”, does this actually help you to feel happy?

I think it is much more helpful to think of and engage in activities that promote happiness and a positive wellbeing.

Helping others

Have you had that feeling of ‘good’ when you have given a helping hand to another person? Call it satisfaction, sense of pride, glee, contentment, delight or appreciation. Whatever it is, there is a positive experience when help is given to a need identified. It feels nice to know you are able to impact someone else’s moment in a helpful way that is genuine and sincere.

This may involve providing companionship to another person.
Helping with a practical task.
Asking someone “Are you okay?”
Showing generosity towards someone just because.
Being available, interested and attentive to someone needing support.
Connecting people to others who can help in a more specific way.
Giving a hug or two…or three
Doing that important task that nobody wants
Sharing what you have or know with others

Deliberate acts of kindness adds to the wellbeing of many…yourself included.

Being good at giving and accepting compliments

When you notice something you like, admire or respect about someone, tell them.

Perhaps someone you know has a new haircut that makes you do a double take. Maybe you are pleasantly surprised by a new attitude someone has developed. You may have just witnessed newfound courage in another being. Someone you know has completed a project that they worked tirelessly on. You have just tasted a home-cooked meal that is so.good.you.need.to.have.the.recipe.

There is nothing wrong with being quietly impressed but there is certainly something positive and pleasant that happens when you articulate this in the form of a compliment to the person you’re impressed by. Maybe it’s the look of their face when they light up; the smile they break into; hearing it’s their first experience of being complimented or even your experience of wanting the other person to know your positive thoughts about them.

How good are you at accepting compliments? When someone gives you praise, do you feel embarrassed; politely dismiss it; create distraction by automatically highlighting something less positive about yourself or even reverse the attention by pointing out a positive element about the other person?

When you are on the receiving end of a compliment, do well at accepting it.
It means someone has noticed something positive about you.

Be in the company of kind and optimistic people

Wherever and whenever possible, surround yourself with others who are kind to you. The way someone treats you will usually leave imprints on your wellbeing. When you experience kindness, it’s likely you will feel something positive whether it be happiness, encouragement, gratitude, care, pleasant surprise, feeling blessed or even a desire to reciprocate that kindness in return to others.

Gravitating towards optimistic attitudes also adds to one’s wellbeing. When you are in the company of people who are hopeful, encouraging and give more attention and weight to past, present and future positive events, your own attitude will usually see an increase in optimism too. Optimistic thinking can be contagious; it breeds hope especially through challenging times though it needs to be practiced and experienced continuously for it to stay. Therefore, keeping optimistic company will contribute to the growth and maintenance of your own optimism.

Do something you enjoy

It is no surprise that most people’s wellbeing and happiness are enhanced during holidays. No alarm clocks ringing at some ungodly hour. Work and school schedules can take their own holiday. All of a sudden, time seems to work in your favour more often than not. Thinking of each tomorrow brings greater feelings of anticipation, relaxation and joy.

The message being conveyed here is to carve out regular time for yourself to do something that you enjoy. This can take the shape of whatever brings you pleasure. Take that holiday, day-trip or one hour break that would do wonders for you. Bake that chocolate molten cake. Watch a funny YouTube video clip. Go for a jog listening to your favourite music. Play a game with your family. Spend the day in your pyjamas at home. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a picturesque view. Whatever it is, making a regular priority for things you enjoy can help to give you experiences of reward, respite, excitement, rejuvenation and change.

Grateful Reflection

If there’s time for eating, driving, showering or other aspects of your daily routine, consider setting aside time for grateful reflection. This is when you think of things you feel grateful for and reflect on their place in your life and its’ meaning for you. More importance should be placed on the quality of your reflection time rather than on its quantity. What aspects of your life give you a sense of gratitude? What are your positive qualities? Who are the people in your world you appreciate? What past, current and future events in your life contribute to any feelings of gratefulness you have? What are the highlights of your day/week/month? Who said something nice to you and what did they say? What are the things/experiences/people you have in your life but take for granted at times? What wishes and goals did you have in the past and eventually managed to fulfil?

Reflecting on such questions can create mental shifts and magnify areas of your life that you truly feel fortunate about.

Be forever young

Growing older can bring a multitude of blessings, some of which may include wisdom, growth and experience. There are aspects of youth that one can retain or revive at any age, perhaps with more meaning and added confidence as time passes.

Take chances in life. Change the scenery in your life if that is something you have been wanting.

“Dance like nobody’s watching”. Leave self-consciousness behind. Take that last slice of cake without any guilt. Live life the way you want it. Run your own race. Create your own happiness. Being different is completely fine.

Be curious. Continue your exploration and learning in any form you like. Ask questions. Read widely. Strike up conversation with people from different ages and backgrounds. Visit places old and new. Learn a new skill. Reminisce on fond memories from your past.

Have fun. Follow that urge to play on the playground and swing on that swing. Maybe it’s time to revive an old pastime. Laugh lots and out loud.

What will you do today to look after your happiness and wellbeing?

May Lim is a Registered Psychologist at Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre.
Visit her site @maylim