New Pathways

New Pathways


IMG_5804Walking in the Lake District this week I came across lots of well worn paths like this. Everyone following the clearest, strongest path.

It reminded me that our behaviour is like this. We repeat patterns and our brains eventually respond habitually, following the strongest neural pathway. In this way behaviour is reinforced. When we decide to change habitual behaviour it can feel strange or uncomfortable as we wander away from the well worn path and try something new. Sometimes it feels impossible to change.

My work focuses on helping you find healthier paths that lead you where you want to go. Together we reinforce these new pathways so they become stronger. In this way, your desired behaviour feels natural and effortless. So what would you like to change about the way you think, feel or behave? Ready to find a better path? Contact me to find out how I can help you.

http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

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Positive Affirmations

Positive Affirmations


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How often have you seen those cringe-worthy memes and posts based on positive affirmations? They seem to pop up on social media every day!

Positive Affirmations are heavily promoted by the self-help industry. If you have good self-esteem and feel confident and sure of yourself, positive affirmations can give you a helpful boost. However, if you are the opposite of this – anxious or perhaps struggling with low mood, then affirmations busting with positivity can be damaging.

Research suggests that positive affirmations are ineffective for people with low self-esteem – they are not helping the very people who tend to use them.

According to a Canadian study in 2009 (Wood, Perunovic and Lee), when people with low self-esteem recite positive affirmations, they feel worse. The study concludes that “repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people, such as individuals with high self-esteem, but backfire for the very people who need them the most”.

Researchers asked people who identified as having low self-esteem to recite this affirmation: “I AM A LOVABLE PERSON”. They measured the subject’s mood and how they felt about themselves afterwards. Those with low self-esteem felt worse after being made to recite the positive affirmation. Only those with high self-esteem reported feeling better.

The results of the study suggest that positive affirmations are incongruent with the mindset of those people who have low self-esteem. This creates feelings of conflict and feeling bad, which in turn is a driver for more negative thoughts about themselves.

Perhaps it is the nature of the affirmations that is at fault here. More realistic statements that do not create conflict or trigger negative feelings, but are neutral, are more likely to be accepted. A useful start is an affirmation such as “I AM ENOUGH”.

Understanding the psychology behind the words and their effect on the mood of an individual is important. So if you’ve tried reciting positive affirmations and it’s left you feeling worse, you now know why!

If you struggle with low self-esteem, lack of confidence, anxiety or low mood and feel like you would benefit from professional help, then please get in touch as there are many sound psychological interventions that can help.

For further information check out my website at http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

Wood, J.V., Perunovic, E., & Lee, J.W. (2009). Positive Self-Statements: Power for Some, Peril for Others. Psychological Science, 20, 860 – 866.

6 Top Tips for overwhelmed working mums


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If you have children and you’re also trying to hold down a working life outside the home, you will know how busy it feels – all the time! Before you know it, you’re experiencing stress, getting irritable and feeling overwhelmed with how much you have to do each day. Talk to any working mum and they will recognise this. For single mums it can especially difficult – and I know because I was one!

Now I’m no fairy godmother and there is no magic wand to make all this disappear, but there are ways to make it easier for yourself. I’m going to share the tips I used which helped me, and recommend some others that would have made things better for me at the time – had I known them.

Tip 1 – Recognise you can’t do everything and prioritise

Work out what is important. List everything on your mind and split the items into essentials and desirables. Essentials need to be top of your priority list – the desirables can wait

Tip 2 – Get a routine

When you’re busy, it’s helpful to have a schedule to guide you. Think of it like the timetable you used at school – that helped you know what was necessary that day, where to be and when, and what to be doing, as your time was broken down into manageable chunks

Tip 3 – Delegate

You may have a supportive partner who can share the load – so use them. Give them specific things to do, like a good manager does with a team at work. Get the children involved in tasks too – depending on their ages there is usually something they can do to help. Make others responsible for doing their bit! Things may not be done to your standards by the way, but learn to let that go – it’s better for you to get the help

Tip 4 – Back up team

We can all use a support team. Sometimes that doesn’t seem possible, but there are ways to develop one. Your children have friends and their parents are probably working too – perhaps there’s an opportunity to see if you can work out something between you, which allows everyone to take turns doing school drop offs or collecting for example. Rope in anyone in your wider family who might be willing to help when you are stuck

Tip 5 – Ask for help

Most parents are reluctant to ask for help because they believe they should be able to cope by themselves. The problem is, when things become too much you can suffer burnout. Once that happens, others will be saying – “if only I’d known, I could have helped you”. Families and friends can often help out, especially if you let them know you need some support. If you are noticing signs of overwhelm then ask for help. It feels good to know you have helped someone who is having problems, so don’t deny the people who care about you that opportunity

Tip 6 – Look after yourself

I bet you are last on your list of priorities – right? With everything else you have to do, how on earth can you spare the time to look after you! Step 1 is to slow down. Stop! When you take care of yourself, you are in a much better place to support your children. Once they are in bed, do something nice for you. Perhaps you enjoy a relaxing bath or time to watch your favourite TV programme. Perhaps you would benefit from catching up on some quality sleep. Whatever you choose, do something that makes you feel good. By looking after yourself, you are taking better care of your children too

Remember that you don’t have to be perfect. There is no such thing as the perfect parent. Do the best you can, with what you have right now. As far as your children are concerned, that will always be good enough!

If you are really struggling with stress, anxiety or lack of sleep and would like some professional psychological help, then do what other overwhelmed parents have done and check out my website at http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com. There are lots of ways I can help you feel more in control and you don’t need to manage this on your own.

 

 

Life can be hard – how do I build resilience?


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Resilience in action!

On holiday this year I spotted this tree at Loch Lomond. Despite the environment trying hard to uproot it and wash it away, that tree has found a way to stay steady and to thrive, even in a tough location. It prompted me to think about resilience and how people manage to survive and even thrive despite the world sometimes seeming to be against them. Perhaps you will recognise yourself or someone you know in what follows, and if you do then I hope you find this blog helpful.

Life throws us challenges continuously, and often problems happen one after another. When some people face difficulties, particularly when they become prolonged, all of their emotions become negative.  When life is good, they feel great, but when things turn bad, they feel terrible and don’t cope well.

Resilient people are able to find something positive in even the worst of circumstances. They definitely are aware of the bad stuff, but at the same time they find a way to also see the good. For instance, they will take the perspective that as bad as something may seem, at least they don’t have ‘such and such’ a problem. How do they do that?

How do you learn to become more resilient – more able to cope well with life’s problems?

Positive Mental Attitude

Oh I know, it sounds such a cliche – that PMA! However, it is helpful to recognise and acknowledge that the way you think affects the way you feel. In order to change unhelpful emotional patterns, you need to curb that habit of negative thinking and build up your positive thinking. You need to strengthen the neural pathways that support this more helpful way of looking at things, so that becomes your habit instead.

When you find yourself ruminating negatively, notice what’s happening and challenge your viewpoint –  ‘What’s the real evidence that things will never get any better?’ All people have memories of success and of failure. Thinking that things will ‘never’ improve is an example of extreme, black and white thinking and not accurate.

We experience this negative type of thinking because our brains are naturally wired to focus more attention on negative events than positive ones. We have evolved to watch out for things that threaten us, so we are attuned to spotting them. So, even though positive events are happening, we have a natural tendency to filter them out. When you take time to notice and appreciate the positive aspects of experiences, you begin to build up a more balanced evidence base and this allows you to make better judgements. A consequence of this, is developing your resilience and enjoying the good things in your life.

Learn from experience

All good and bad experiences provide opportunities for personal growth. When you see events from this perspective – life as a learning experience – the more resilient you become. Resilient people look at a problem and say – ‘What will solve this?’ and ‘What am I learning from this?’ Problems provide an opportunity to learn and problem-solve – developing these skills allows your resilience to develop. Ask yourself questions such as –  ‘What is useful in this?’ or ‘What available choices do I have?’, rather than focusing on ‘What’s going wrong?’ or ‘Who can I blame?’ It takes practice to shift your thinking in this way, but it is worth the effort.

This type of learning encourages you to think more broadly and to accept what is possible. Alternatively, focusing on the negative will impact on the way you communicate with others and possibly make problems even worse. Perhaps you have experienced this yourself?

Be kind

Being kind boosts the serotonin or feel good chemical in your brain. Practicing kindness to others and also appreciating kindness from others, and being grateful for the good things in life (and yes, everyone has something!) allows you to see any difficulties from a more balanced viewpoint. Think about this as filling up your very own reservoir of resilience. Having a reservoir of resilience you can draw on, means you will be able to cope well when difficult times come along.

Treat yourself well

Stay mentally and physically healthy by eating a balanced diet and taking regular exercise. Spend time with people whose company you enjoy. Laugh and nurture the humour in situations – after all, gallows humour is a coping mechanism! Take time to relax – listen to your favourite music or go for a walk in nature. All these things relieve stress and allow you to top up your vital reservoir of resilience.

Finally, if all of this just seems too hard, then please do seek out expert, professional help. A good coach or therapist will help you – you are not alone.

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and Personal Development Specialist based in York. You can reach me at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

What 10 things made this a good year?


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It’s that time of year when many of us look back on the year that has passed and have a quick mental review of what sort of year it was. We all wish each other a ‘Happy New Year’ at the start of January, so how did your year go? Spend a moment now just looking back over the last 12 months of your life and see what your overall feeling is about this year.

Isn’t it strange how when we do this we tend to focus on the things that went wrong, were really bad, or disappointing? I noticed myself doing this, which prompted me to write this blog.

For many, this has been a particularly challenging year as things have shifted on the world stage. Perhaps you have experienced #anger, #anxiety or even #depression. Add in any personal, financial or emotional challenges and your review may be teetering on the edge of that negativity cliff! We all have this negativity bias as part of our human nature and it helps us to watch out for threats or danger in our everyday lives. However, we can become too focussed on what went wrong and fail to notice what went right! It is easy to become blinkered to the good stuff. So, I decided to write a list of the things that made it a good year…..

  • Love and support from close family
  • Good friends
  • Opportunities for meeting new people who enrich life
  • Exercise to feel good and improve health
  • Getting out in nature
  • Regular, healthy meals
  • Time to rest and recuperate
  • Helping others
  • Enjoying hobbies
  • Learning from a new challenge

The good news is that there are many more than 10 things on this list – this list goes on. So, my new view overall is – that was actually a great year full of challenges and opportunities that stretched old ways of thinking, increased learning and therefore enriched life! If you are feeling down about the last year perhaps your focus is in the wrong place. Take a step back and shift your focus onto what went well. What did you learn? How did you grow and develop emotionally? If you find this difficult, the easiest way to start is to think about what you can be grateful for this year – perhaps things, surroundings or people you have taken for granted? Get started now. I wonder how many you can write on your list?

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and Personal Development Specialist based in York. You can reach me at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

Grateful for the small things


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This is a little Amaretti biscuit. I like one with my morning coffee sometimes. It’s just a little thing but it makes me happy. I take tiny bites to make the sugary, almond delight last longer.

Being grateful for such small things feels good. I appreciate this little taste of luxury. Did you know that practising gratitude can make you happier? I regularly encourage my clients who are experiencing problems with low mood to make a note of the things they are grateful for.

Every day, pause and notice at least 3 things that you perhaps take for granted, but you are grateful for. For some, it is the smiling faces of their children, for others the unexpected sunshine, or seeing a beautiful flower or tree. For many people life is tough and every day is a struggle. Perhaps feeling thankful is far from the way you feel about your life? Even in difficult circumstances there is always something to be grateful for – fresh, clean water when you turn on a tap, the fact that you are here breathing and living when others without choice are not, the ability to read these words. Search and there is something.

So allow yourself to experience that feeling of gratitude. Try it out. Even if it’s just for a little thing – it makes you feel good.

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist, Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapy practitioner based in York. You can find out more about my work and how I can help you at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

 

Cloud watching – Taking time out


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We all lead such hectic lives these days don’t we? Whether we are rushing around working, commuting, shopping, cleaning the house, caring for others or doing all the inevitable admin that maintaining a life brings, it’s all busy, busy, busy. When someone asks, “How’s things?” how many times do you answer, “Oh you know, busy!”

How often do you take time to be still and do nothing? I am still shocked but not surprised when clients tell me that they take work or laptops or work phones on holiday with them. Weekends and evenings also consist of checking emails and messages – just in case they miss something. Little wonder that these types of people often present with overwhelming stress, anxiety and feelings of depression.

Perhaps you make time for yourself to unwind and relax: maybe a peaceful half hour in the bath; or an evening walk; or listening to soothing music. When I ask my clients what they do to relax, most have to really think hard about it. Some can’t come up with an answer. Some think relaxing, which they equate with doing nothing, is wasted time.

However, we all need periods of purpose-free calm in our lives. Most of us are surrounded by human chatter or ringing phones or noisy traffic, which are all part of the competing demands and distractions of a busy life. We are on alert all the time, scanning for anything that might need our immediate attention. Tiring isn’t it?

Last weekend, on a beautiful summer’s afternoon in my garden, I looked up at the glorious blue sky and the fluffy white clouds passing by. I remembered lying on the grass as a child, and imagining the shapes the clouds were forming, and the stories I made up in my mind about them. Suddenly, I wanted to experience the joy of that again, so I got out of my chair and laid back on the grass and watched as the clouds floated by, transforming into wondrous shapes as they went. I found myself smiling as I recalled memories of carefree childhood days. The grass felt soft and warm against my back. The sunshine felt warm against my skin. The gentle breeze was cooling and refreshing. I could smell the fragrances of summer flowers and newly cut grass. Most of these sensations had gone unnoticed until I made the time to stop and take it all in. I took some long, slow deep breaths and felt my whole body and mind unwind and relax. I must have stayed there like that, just noticing, being mindful, for 20 minutes or so and when I stood up again I felt joyful, re-energised and grateful for the experience.

So how long is it since you took the time to allow yourself to be at one with the natural environment? When was the last time you stopped and stared and really noticed all the intricacies of something like a beautiful tree or flower, the sea or the clouds perhaps?

Put your busyness to one side and take time to try it out. Focus on all your senses. Notice the detail of what you can see, hear, smell, feel and perhaps even taste. Taking time to reconnect with the beauty of our natural world is never wasted time. It lifts the human spirit – which reminds me of the poem I learned as a child. Perhaps you remember it too?

Leisure by W.H.Davies

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist, Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapy practitioner based in York. You can find out more about my work and how I can help you at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com