therapy

Stop the bus and leave drama at the next stop! Part One

Recently I found myself in the middle of drama with one of my good friends. The experience was all consuming, one minute I was crying and the next I was angry. During this gut-wrenching conflict I couldn’t eat, I frequently cried myself to sleep and everything in my life seemed to stop. I even stopped training for my 5k run for charity (thankfully I managed to complete the race, albeit with a lot of huffing and puffing). This went on for around a month. What surprised me most was how the situation gained momentum and spiralled out of control so quickly. With no exaggeration, the impact of this conflict was devastating. As I had learned, when we are in conflict with those around us the toll on our lives can be profound. Loss of appetite, acute stress, sleep disturbance and depression can all result from intense conflict. If I was ever to escape this drama and all the stress it had caused me, I knew I had to get off the bus at the next stop.

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7 Steps to a Happier You; Part Three

Step Six: Hobbies and leisure pursuits

 

Having hobbies and ways to creatively express ourselves can also significantly boost our feelings of happiness. Why not try taking a class of something you have always wanted to do? When we creatively express ourselves we experience a deep sense of personal satisfaction, pride and achievement which all work to boost our happiness. Check out Tasterlab for an extensive directory of hobby taster classes.

 

Likewise, having leisure pursuits is essential as they serve to both reduce stress, relax us and are a valuable source of fun and enjoyment. I have an unlimited cinema card which I pay for monthly so when I need to relax I can get lost in a movie. Other fun leisure pursuits include bowling, a meal at a restaurant, fishing, roller-skating, exhibitions and museums and even karaoke with friends.

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7 Steps to a Happier You; Part Two

 

Step Three: Live for the moment

 

In all of my happiest memories I was totally absorbed and engaged in the moment. These moments were so crystal clear it is as if I had experienced them with eyes which were seeing for the very first time. Amazingly, we can all learn to develop this close relationship to the present moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the man responsible for bringing mindfulness meditation into the mainstream medical arena, defines mindfulness as ‘The awareness that emerges when we learn to pay attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally to things as they are.’ Mindfulness has been found to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and to help us better deal with pain. It also serves to help us fully immerse ourselves in the moment and allows us to develop a sense of appreciation and gratitude, both essential components of a happier life.

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7 Steps to a Happier You; Part One

 

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary happiness can be defined as ‘A state of well being and contentment’. We all want to be happy but is it something we can actively pursue? For years I struggled with depression and so I began questioning whether I could reduce the possibility of further bouts by proactively seeking happiness. I was fortunate that I began my research into happiness at a time when the area of positive psychology had exploded and was grateful to discover that there was extensive information and findings surrounding the field of happiness. In fact there are many things we can all do if we want to increase our happiness and live more contented lives. These changes may be small and manageable, like keeping a daily gratitude journal, or could be fundamental changes like integrating meditation into our daily lives.

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Personal productivity – How to achieve in record-breaking time; Part Three

Once we realize the importance of focussing on non-urgent but important tasks we are ready to set our diaries to work. When entering into your diary it is best to tackle the whole week and this can easily be done over a half an hour period. I review my coming week every Sunday as I find it puts me in a focussed state of mind for the week ahead.

 

I have to agree with Stephen R Covey that when planning your week it is best to consider when you are most awake. Are you a morning person or do you feel more productive in the afternoon? Leaving the most demanding activities for when you are most alert will result in superior work. Now you have your diary and you are ready to plan your week, Stephen R Covey recommends entering in time for all of your non-urgent but important tasks first, such as working on your goals.  After that schedule in your urgent and important tasks like working on goals or projects that are approaching a deadline for example. Leave slack or ‘free time’ for urgent but not important tasks such as phone calls and some mail which may crop up throughout the day as this will help make your schedule realistic. Last but not least, take time to schedule in fun and relaxation. If we fail to make time for fun and relaxation we can leave ourselves vulnerable to stress and even burn out. In my upcoming feature this December I will look further at stress and together we will explore how to not only manage our stress levels, but significantly reduce them too. So, in order to avoid our stress levels rising, it is vital to schedule in fun and relaxation, as no matter how focussed we are, we all need time to unwind and play. It is no exaggeration to say that this approach to time management has completely transformed my productivity.

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Personal productivity – How to achieve in record-breaking time; Part Two

It is worth being aware that we will frequently face distractions, demands and requests from others when pursuing our goals. However, if we are to keep on track with our goals and effectively manage our time, it is critical to learn the skill of saying no. It is worth remembering that behind every no is a greater yes – you are simply saying yes to what is most meaningful to you when you say no to others. If we continually say yes to others requests and demands we can end up spending most of our time fulfilling others priorities and fail to prioritize what is truly important to us. When saying yes to others would mean saying no to you, choose instead to politely say no to outside requests and demands. For a more in-depth look at learning how to say no, please refer to June’s 2014 series ‘Sick of over-extending yourself? Learn how to say no.’

 

According to the Pareto Principle, created by an Italian economist of the same name, just twenty percent of our efforts can bring eighty percent of our rewards.

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Personal productivity – How to achieve in record-breaking time; Part One

When it comes to time management, I’ve had a bumpy ride. In an effort to increase my productivity I finally bought a diary and created a list of goals. I could never have anticipated the enormous impact those two simple steps would have. Eager to develop effective time management, I continued to read all I could on the topic. Although I’m still learning I’m now in a place where I’m dedicating time to what matters to me most and making more progress than I ever imagined was possible. If you feel, as I did, that the days pass you by without your consent and you are always running against the clock, effective time management may well be your new best friend.

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How to turn your dreams into reality; Part Three

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

So you have set your goals, now what? All too often we can create goals and fail to account for the unexpected in life. Major life events such as getting married or a new job can easily take over and distract us from the pursuit of our goals but we must avoid the tendency to feel like we have failed. True goals need to be flexible and open to adjustments. When we review our progress, or return to our goal after a major life event, it is the perfect opportunity to reshape our goals, reorganizing our time and resources. This may mean shifting the timescale to make it more realistic and achievable. In line with our new priorities we will feel more optimistic about achieving what we set out to and, as a result, will feel more empowered to do the daily tasks necessary for us to stay on course and reach our goal.

 

 

Although setting goals can take a lot of thought and planning the benefit of setting them is two-fold. Not only do we gain enjoyment from participating in an activity we are passionate about (which improves our quality of life) but we start to gain a sense of progression and advancement which is central to lasting happiness. The more we recognize our achievements, the more drive we have to advance further and a virtuous cycle of happiness is created. So the next time you feel like you are running up and down the field and not scoring – set goals, turning your dreams into reality – and hit a home run on the field that is life.

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How to turn your dreams into reality; Part Two

 

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So what are S.M.A.R.T. goals? Let’s explore the meaning of S.M.A.R.T. in this context further…

 

Specific goals identify what we want to achieve on a practical level and are often grounded in weekly participation of your chosen pursuit. For example, a vague goal would be to become a pop star. Although becoming a pop star is an admirable goal we need to think of how we are going to achieve that and add these interim steps to our main goal. A specific goal in order to achieve chart success might therefore be to take weekly singing lessons and practice singing exercises for thirty minutes a day. Once we have specific goals we immediately feel energized as we know on a practical level what needs to be done.

 

Goals also need to be measurable; ideally goals should be measured in the short-term and medium-term. For example, you can easily measure whether you have been attending weekly singing lessons and practicing each day. Every six months you can review whether you have made progress by seeing if you have attended any open mike nights or have started writing your own lyrics. The main objective is to outline how and when we will measure our progress. This helps us adjust our goals when necessary and keeps us motivated down the line.

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How to stop operating on auto-pilot and live for the moment; Part Three

If after practising these mindfulness exercises you find you would like to integrate mindfulness into your weekly routine, you can explore the field of mindfulness further by purchasing a more in-depth CD. One of the best audio CD’s available is from Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose teachings have led to the Western worlds recognition of mindfulness as a beneficial practice in helping patients to cope with stress, anxiety, pain and depression. As an introduction, his ‘Guided Mindfulness Meditation’ series is excellent, with each exercise typically lasting forty-five minutes. Each CD in the series comes with a full programme that helps you to structure your mindful practise and is designed to assist you in integrating mindfulness into your life.

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