What does your Christmas usually look like? Is it a materialistic day?
Materialism is all around us. It means that we put more value onto ‘stuff’ than other ideas such as kindness and love. It is hard not to be materialistic as this is how a lot of life works. It is also one thing that undermines our wellbeing as shown in Tim Kasser’s book, the high price of materialism.
Try this: every time you think you want something. A new top, pair of trainers, certain food or drink brand, anything: reflect on why you want it. Why particularly that top? Why specifically that brand? We have been advertised to since the day we were born. We have been shown constant media on how we should look. Do you want this stuff because you need it or because you think you should or must have it?
Valuing ‘stuff’ or money, power, success in a sense that success means money and more stuff correlates highly with lower wellbeing, lower self-worth and less satisfying relationships with others. Valuing kindness, love, equality, self-respect, honesty and much more correlate highly with greater wellbeing and sense of self as well as better connections with others. What ways can you fill your hearts this Christmas with values that boost your wellbeing rather than deplete it?
Try some of these: Walk and listen to an amazing podcast which is inspiring. 🧁Do some baking and then gift the goodies to someone nearby. Leave them on the doorstep Pick up a book and read something new ️ Get on a zoom call with some people you haven’t seen for ages Sing along to some Christmas tunes and have a dance in the front room Head over to Instagram and Facebook and add your own ideas to the post
A large part of a positive relationship with anyone is down to our interactions with them. Positive interactions in higher numbers equal longer, healthier and flourishing relationships. Our emotions and the way we interact are contagious as we have mentioned before in previous blogs. If I am rude to someone the chances are they will respond rudely back and vice versa.
If I am highly stressed and anxious and bring this home with me from school the chances are my household will be feeling the negative interactions for the evening.
Please note that a positive interaction doesn’t mean we try to make everything we come across sparkly and fluffy. Remember, positive psychology is not happy clappy silver lining stuff. We accept the bad days too.
If someone says ‘I feel so stressed today’ in their interaction with us they probably are not looking for you to say, ‘cheer up, there’s a rainbow out there.’
A positive interaction does not mean you only talk about positive things.
Believe it or not you can have a positive interaction while being in disagreement over who walks the dog or does the washing up. It is absolutely possible for an argument to end as a positive interaction if both sides feel heard and the problem is resolved.
Positive interactions can involve many things…
Have you given your full attention? (Put down the mobile or anything else and look at the person speaking to you). This can work wonders and often helps people feel so much better as they have been fully listened to.
Have you responded mindfully being respectful of their feelings.? ‘You sound really sad. Is there anything I can do to help?’ We can often try to jump in and fix situations straight away. (Parents are classic at this and it takes away control and choice from the young person you are trying to save. It takes away any autonomy they had in the situation. Parents, take a step back sometimes and talk through it without offering solution) When we just offer a listening ear and support (‘I really am not sure what I can do to help right now but if you need me to just listen I will’) we give our relationship a boost and make the person feel supported to make their own decisions giving them the controls.
Have you offloaded your stress onto someone unsuspecting? There are people we can offload onto and there are people we can’t. If you are not able to positively interact at that moment be honest. ‘I am in a really bad mood right now and I can’t think straight. Can you give me some time and we will talk soon?’ Shouting at your Dad because he asks what you want for dinner is not the way to offload your stress from the day.
Are you focusing on the positive things you get to do in your relationships or are you focusing on the ‘what if’s’ and ‘I wish we could’ or the negative? Things will go wrong. We are all human. Holding a grudge will not build a positive relationship and comparing your relationship to others will not help either. What do you do already that you enjoy? That brings a smile or a laugh?
Remember as always these things take time and practice. We are always changing and growing and our relationships need to change and grow too. Keep moving forward positively together ️
Our blog this month is written by the wonderful Jane Jennison. She has kindly contributed this amazing section on our theme of the month Kindness.
Small acts of kindness
Why “Small Acts of Kindness”?
There’s a lot of research into how performing Random Acts of Kindness (RAKs) helps us feel better, and contributes to some-one else’s well-being too. ). RAKs are for strangers, with no recognition or reward (visit the RAK website here for more on this).
We have recently had children’s mental health week, RAK week, and Time to Talk, all focussing on improving mental health. (For a full list of National Awareness Days, click here.). Our mental health seems to be on the decline, so are there small things we can do at home, to help, as well as reaching out to strangers?
As I write, we are facing the global pandemic of Covid-19. This is impacting on our mental health, and lockdown restrictions mean that our social and work contacts are reduced. What can we do, to help our own mental health, and support the mental health of our nearest and dearest?
I invite you to take part in the ‘Small Acts of Kindness’ Challenge. It’s not on any calendar; I have just conjured it from the ether! Here’s how it works:
Small Acts of Kindness challenges us to be kinder to people in our circle; family, work, or friends. It’s our opportunity to practice thoughtfulness, consideration and generosity. These are not RAKs as they are planned actions for people we know.
Your challenge: your way. It’s up to you how to run this challenge. You could plan one small act of kindness a day, or perhaps set up a Small Act Circle with some people also participating, so you can support and encourage each other.
Be authentic to yourself. Set yourself challenges that are true to your values and strengths. (For more about strengths and how to identify your values, visit here.). This helps build your own well-being by choosing actions allied to your interests and expertise.
Build on micro-connections. Small Acts of Kindness can be done for people in your close circle, but you can also extend this. There may be people you see regularly who you can include. Is there a coffee shop you often visit, or some-one you are on ‘nodding’ acquaintances with? By expanding our interactions with these people, we can build new friendships and find shared values.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Send a copy of your favourite book to a friend.
Write a note to a friend or colleague to say thank you for their support or help.
Make a bookmark and send it to your favourite reader.
Write a thank you card to your optician or dentist.
Have ‘movie night’ at home with your family or friends (adhering to lockdown guidelines, of course!), snacks and a favourite film.
Text a friend your favourite joke. Mine is ‘what’s orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot’.
If there’s a page on Social Media that you find inspiring, share it and comment why you like it.
Send a birthday card! Posts on Social Media pages *really* are not as satisfying as receiving a hand-written card.
Write some-one a letter. If you are rusty of pen, or need ideas, look here
Send some flower seeds to your gardening friends. If you are not sure what to send, try these
Organise a litter-pick for your area. Your local council will have guidance. Here’s ours
Make your partner a cup of tea or coffee when they are having a lie-in.
Mind your Ps and Qs. Being polite costs nothing, but is often overlooked at home. Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to your house-mates and work-colleagues.
Send a postcard when you are on holiday. If there’s not one you like, you can use Touchnote.com to send them from photos on your phone.
Give a little gift. You don’t need to buy a Faberge egg for someone to feel appreciated. Tokens of thanks just need to be thoughtful and personal.
Help out with the chores before you are asked.
Check in with a friend or family member you have not seen for a while. Many people who have poor mental health are reluctant to reach out, so reach out to them, instead.
Shop locally. Support your local community and build new friendships!
Organise a coffee morning. Lots of charities have themed events, check here for a full list of National Awareness Days. (Please wait until lockdown restrictions are lifted, or organise a virtual one.)
Support your local Hospice. Most are only partly funded by the NHS and rely on charitable contributions for the rest.
Support your local Library. Many have been privatised as a result of Austerity, and are run by a mix of volunteer and paid staff, and have to raise their own funds.
Buy some-one a gift card.
Prepare their favourite meal or snack for a loved-one.
Please adhere to the physical distancing guidelines that are in place where you are, and keep safe.
Finally plan ahead, and have fun!
Guest post by Jane Jennison
Jane Jennison is a positive psychology coach and author. She is founder of Adopting Positivity, Director of Autonomous Ideas Limited, and co-founder and co-organiser of the Positive Psychology Summit: UK. Her workshops help people identify their strengths, build positive relationships and find authentic happiness. She also works one-to-one with coaching clients. She writes for Goldie Media, which focussed on positive aging and Home for Good and Adoption:UK, who support families touched by adoption, fostering and special guardianship. She also publishes on Substack. Her grassroots-driven approach to practicing and sharing Positive Psychology is one that is much needed in communities today
I have also seen this referred to as the emotional corona-coaster!
How have you all been coping with lockdown? Have your moods been better, worse, more consistent either way, or have been so up and down and round and round you feel numb?
Whichever way it’s been, I think it is fair to say that the pandemic has bought us all a chance to feel many emotions.
Try this: What are your emotions telling you? I am a big believer in our emotions being there for a reason. Fear lets you know that you should be aware of possible harm or injury. Belonging lets us know we have found our tribe. Disgust can stop you eating things that will make you very sick. Happiness can be a way of your body saying, ‘do that some more’. Take time to sit with how you are feeling; what are they saying to you?
We must also remember that our emotions are contagious. I have, plenty of times, blamed the kids for being moody, when it has in fact been me. My bad mood has spread through the house and you think everyone has a problem apart from yourself.
It is super important to remember that if we are stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or angry the tensions of everyone around us will rise too. When have you blamed others for being a pain when it’s actually been you? The good news is this can work with all those comfortable feelings too. Have you ever started laughing just because others are? You may not have even known what was funny!
Try this:Smile. That is all. As you walk past people smile. See how many people you can get to smile back.
If you need any help with your emotions, especially as we had back to more normal situations and school, then please get in touch. We will have a family wellbeing course taking place very soon and available on thinkific.
Schools have them. Companies have them. Brands have them. Families can have them and so can you personally.
You may see the use of words such as honesty, respect, community, compassion, plus many more.
What is most important to realise is that values should form our actions. It is all very well saying you have a value, but if you never take any action to live in accordance with your value is it really yours?
For example. If you say your value is honesty but you tell little white lies all the time, is it really your value?
Try this: have a think about what matters to you most. Then think about why. Do these things matter to you because they truly make you feel better, giving you meaning and purpose? Or do they only matter because someone else says they should?
When we have values that we action, we have more meaning and purpose and feel better. We achieve a heightened sense of wellbeing. And this is what we want more of, yes?
The good thing about values, meaning and purpose, is that they bring us longer lasting, deeper wellbeing. This is sometimes about doing the things that are harder in the short term but have much more positives in the long term.
Try this: think about something you have worked hard towards. That had challenges and difficulties in the short term but gave you positive long-lasting rewards for the future. What values were important and being put into action for this to happen?
If you need any help with this, coaching is a great way to open the mind to new ways of moving forward positively. Find out more here.
As always, personal growth and change takes time. Enjoy the journey discovering your values and how they change along the way.
Things are changing. That is what it feels like at the moment. We were all carrying on as ‘normal’, (well life as we knew it at that point) and then everything changed.
But, if we think carefully. Things are always changing. You have changed, probably lots of times.
One thing we have to accept in life is that things change.
Try this: Take a moment to think or write down all the moments so far in your life where things have changed. There can be huge big changes and small tiny changes. Some of these will be changes you wanted to take place and will have felt exciting or comfortable at the time. Other changes can be unexpected, feel out of our control and very much unwanted. Once you have some examples, take time to think about how you dealt with these changes.
When we move through change and come out of the other side, we are building our resilience and showing how resilient we already are. Go you, you absolute resilient machine!
Change can be difficult because it often brings with it the emotion of fear. Even if it is a welcome change there can be anxieties around it because it is leading us into unknown territory. Even if we have good expectations of what this new unknown will be like we can never be certain. So how do we cope with the fears and anxiety of change and become even more resilient than we already are?
Try this: Is the story you are telling yourself helpful? We often create stories around events and situations we face. If you are anything like me, these stories can often contain real catastrophe. I can go on forever in my head creating the worse case scenarios. How about creating the best-case scenarios of the change you are facing too? The chances are actual reality will be somewhere between these two stories. Take control of the stories you tell yourself.
Part of mindfulness is the practice of acceptance and non-judgement. Quite often we think it is sitting cross legged on a scenic mountain meditating for hours on end!
Mindfulness is about being aware of yourself, others and the environment around you but crucially, without judgement of it. When we judge we are bringing meaning and ideas from the past and future and assuming or predicting how we, others or a situation should behave or turn out.
So, for example; have you ever started to feel emotional and labelled the emotion, told yourself you were wrong for feeling it before really actually feeling it and taking time to figure out exactly what it was and what it was trying to tell you? Remember as we have discussed in emotions topics before, they are all there for a reason.
Have you ever told yourself a situation was going to be completely awful and that you wouldn’t be able to handle the situation without having ever been in that situation before and knowing what will actually happen?
In both of the above we are being judgemental of ourselves or situations rather than practicing the art of non-judgement.
Try this: When an emotion arises, get comfortable and be aware of what it is. Where is it in the body, what is it trying to tell you? Accept that the feeling is there. Do you want more or less of this feeling? Decide whether to give anymore of your awareness to this feeling or to just let it pass. Remember emotions come and go.
Acceptance is also a tough skill to master. Often people think that acceptance means you become some sort of doormat for people to wipe their feet on and leave you feeling rubbish. This is not acceptance.
For example, just because you accept someone did something mean to you it doesn’t mean that it was acceptable behaviour and they shouldn’t be told that.
It means you accept that it is their behaviour and you are not in control of their behaviour, only your own. It was their choice to be mean and that has no reflection on you or your worth.
Try this: When you hit a tough situation. The behaviour of someone else or an event out of your control. Take a moment to accept that it has happened. Wishing it hadn’t or wondering why someone is not doing what you want them to do is not going to change what has happened. Once you accept what has happened, you take your power back and can decide what you want to do next. Remember you are in control of you.
Mindfulness can be added to daily life via taking time to think, reflect and question our initial thoughts and judgements. If you want more time to practice this join our 5 day wellbeing challenge here which is free and taking place on Facebook. After this there is a special online 28 day course where you can transform your wellbeing and use the power of positive psychology throughout your daily life. Head to the group coaching page for more information. If you join our 5 day wellbeing challenge you will get a super special lockdown price.
Everyone should indulge in self-care, daily. It is not a luxury bath or binge watching a whole Netflix series once you feel dreadful. Self-care is daily routines that keep us healthy. Physically and mentally.
How many of these do you take part in regularly.
Plenty of sleep, Good food, drinking lots of water, exercising, reading, being kind to yourself, staying connected with others, relaxation, being mindful, letting go of difficult emotion, being playful and meditation.
Try This: Try out the diagram in the picture. Add your self-care ideas to each section and then give them a number out of ten. A zero means this part of self-care is not happening at all and a ten means you have that one in a routine and all is well.
This way it is easy to see where you can boost your routine and keep up what you are already doing well. You can have as many or as few self-care ideas on your wheel as you want. If you know that you are never going to meditate then do not add it to your wheel. You do not have to do all the self-care ideas listed and you of course may have others that you want to add.
Often people will avoid a part of self-care as they have tried before and felt it had not gone well. Such as starting a new exercise routine or drinking more water instead of caffeine. Please remember, no matter who you are, what you have tried before or where in life you are, you are not condemned to unhealthy habits. People change and grow and can undertake this change at any point they choose.
With the country moving to more isolation measures we have more opportunity to look after ourselves within our homes. Take time to relax as this can decrease stress which is not great for our immune systems. Take time to eat plenty of vegetables (there are lots of these in the shops). Even if you are alone, get online and connect with others. Facetime those you can’t see in person. We will need to be more mindful of each other and kindness is key.
Don’t forget to practise gratitude. When we are surrounded by bad news it can become overwhelming, so remember what you are thankful for.
We are moving online. You can still take part in classes such as our relaxation, mindfulness and meditation drop in and a new monthly subscription service, so you have coaching when you need it as well as one to one coaching. We also have an awesome self-acceptance online course you can already have access too. Keep an eye out for all announcements online and social media as I am working hard to get it all ready. Thank you for reading and taking time to support a small business in this diffcult time.
I thought self-love was hard, and I was right. BUT, before you even go there you need to accept yourself. Many of the ‘self’s’ such as self-love, worth and esteem are related to each other but each a little different. Acceptance (and awareness) is really the start, the first brick giving you a base to build the rest.
Accepting the great parts of ourselves is easy.
Oh wow, you are so funny, healthy, intelligent, kind…..any of those things people have said to you that become a positive story in your mind. Easy to accept. Well most of the time.
Sometimes these things can be difficult to accept too and if you want help with that you can get in touch for a free call to see how coaching and positive psychology interventions may help. Send your availability through this contact form and I will get back to you.
What about these things… Oh wow, you are so stubborn, grumpy, jealous, naughty, emotional….
These things are harder to accept.
Now sometimes of course people may have said these things to you to be mean.
However, sometimes, if we are honest with ourselves, we have maybe been these things. I am stubborn. There I admit it. Finally, after 37 years.
Once I accepted this trait, I found it much easier to recognise, cope with and change. I also found it easier to know when someone was being mean and saying something to me that was not part of my reality. I am more aware of this now as I am more accepting of who I am and more aware of who I am.
Why is it important we accept ourselves unconditionally?
We are a work in progress, all of us. Humans change and grow throughout life. Your sense of who you are is therefore always changing. As you age, face different life events, find new meaning, purpose and values, your ‘self’ will change. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY FINE.
The key thing to remember is: Unless you accept who you are it is very difficult to make the changes you may want to make to improve your life.
Try this: Have a go at writing down all the positive things that you can accept about yourself right now. Enjoy these things about yourself and celebrate them.
Then to start the journey of self-acceptance and self-love head over to our online workshop. Self-discovery is waiting for you.
How great does it feel when you finally achieve a goal? Something you have wanted to achieve for ages. Have worked hard towards. I know I feel AMAZING.
Quite often though, I will admit, my goals have fallen by the wayside. Left in a pile of other uncompleted tasks and things that I just don’t feel motivated to complete. How many of you have a New years resolution in this pile? One of my resolutions was to eat less sugar. As I am currently eating chocolate while writing this, we can assume that is in the pile too!
Why do some goals never seem to get going? Well for me with the less sugar example… I didn’t really want to. I love chocolate. I want to eat it so therefore there is no motivation to not eat it. If you have made a goal because you think you should or because someone else tells you you should, it doesn’t always align with your values.
Try this: What do you really, really want? Really. Totally honest, up front without the little voices in your head telling you to stop being silly. That right there is a true goal, that means something to you. It matters. If it matters, you are going to stick to it for longer. Write down the things you truly want and turn these into goals.
Sometimes goals don’t fall by the wayside because we don’t really want them. Sometimes we get lost on the way to achieving them. Things get in the way. Life takes an unexpected turn and the goal takes a backseat and can get left there. There is nothing wrong with this. Life happens and we sometimes have to put other things ahead of what we truly want for short time periods. The problem is when they get left in the backseat and become and little nagging concern that we can’t shift. Its always good to revisit these lost goals. Re-evaluate them. Do you still want it? If not, then get rid. If you do still want it, then read on.
Try this: Break goals down into smaller more manageable steps. If I set a goal to be able to Olympic weightlift, I wouldn’t just turn up and expect to start chucking heavy weights above my head without issue. I would need to break the goal down into steps. Starting with smaller weights and moving up as I gained strength. All goals are the same. Break it down into steps that give you little moments of achievement along the way.
As always, remember that wellbeing takes practise. Take time to reflect on how far you have come and where you want to go at varying points throughout the year not just in January. If you want help with this we have an hour long workshop taking place in Biggleswade on Wednesday 29th January or you can seek help via 1:1 sessions in person or on skype.