Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Do and be the best you can

With the Olympic Games having recently begun, there seems no better time to discuss some of the psychological techniques employed by athletes to improve their performance.

One such technique is known as ‘self-talk’ which reflects the link between our thoughts and performance. Self-talk uses self-addressed words or phrases to guide action.

Different types of self-talk work in different ways. It can benefit both beginners and more experienced athletes when they practise the technique. However, self-talk is believed to be most effective for novel tasks. This is because it is easier to fine tune the early stages of learning, and tasks involving fine skills (such as sinking a golf ball), because it improves concentration. Instructional self-talk (such as ‘elbow up’ for a beginner swimmer) works better for tasks involving fine skills as opposed to motivational self-talk (e.g. ‘give it all’) which works better for tasks requiring strength, endurance, confidence and psyching-up.

Another approach used by athletes to improve performance is ‘The Inner Game’ which is a method of coaching established by Timothy Gallwey in the 1970s. This technique is based on the idea that we all possess two types of engagement. The outer game involves overcoming external barriers to reach an external goal. The inner game takes place within our mind and is played against obstacles such as fear, self-doubt, loss of focus, and limiting concepts or assumptions. Therefore to learn and maximise our performance, we must let our minds be quiet and focused and master our inner game by reducing the self-imposed complications so we can reach our full potential.

In addition to sport, both techniques have been useful in a variety of other fields. Indeed, Gallwey’s work forms the basis for other types of coaching such as business coaching, life coaching and executive coaching.

For more information about coaching or to book an initial session with one of our coaches, please contact your local First Psychology centre: Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk
Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk
Aberdeen: 01224-452-848, www.aberdeenpsychology.co.uk

Friday, 27 July 2012

Be a good sport

There’s good news for those of us who hate to exercise but want to keep trim. According to the BBC’s Horizon programme, it’s possible to improve some measures of fitness by exercising for only three minutes a week. But why are some of us averse to exercise?

One common reason for failing to exercise is that we simply don’t feel like it because we are discouraged or depressed. Another reason is that we don’t have the time.

According to research in the Journal of Physical Education, teachers of PE in school can largely influence whether we enjoy sport or not. By encouraging social interaction and responsibility, focusing on effort and personal improvement and not making comparisons with other pupils, PE teachers can make students feel competent doing exercise and playing sports outside of school, as well as throughout their lives.

The social side of sport or group cohesion it creates has been investigated by a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University. It seems the camaraderie that often develops between team members can affect a teenager's willingness to engage in exercise and can be the key to maintaining physical activity in the longer term.

This link between motivation and group cohesion is an important finding, particularly as it is more common for people to engage in physical activity in groups rather than on their own. It has also been shown that if people are in groups they enjoy, they are more likely to stick to exercise regimes.

Therefore by understanding group cohesion we can increase the likelihood that physically active children will remain physically active adults.

First Psychology Scotland has centres in the following locations: Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk
Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk
Aberdeen: 01224-452-848, www.aberdeenpsychology.co.uk

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The benefits of exercise on mental wellbeing

With a summer of sport ahead us, the topic of exercise seems rather pertinent.

The benefits of exercise to the body are well known. It keeps the heart healthy, strengthens our immune system, reduces blood pressure and reduces stress through the release of endorphins which make us feel good. However, the benefits of exercise to our mental well-being are less known and in particular, its effect on our brain.

Research suggests exercise can help reduce anxiety in women and alleviate depression in both sexes. Indeed, a recent study revealed that a 30 minute brisk walk (or equivalent) significantly improves our mood after 2, 4, 8, and 12 hours.

In the last few years, researchers at Dartmouth’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences have focused on the relationship between exercise and the brain and discovered a gene that regulates the beneficial effect of exercise on our brain - according to age, and memory in particular. These findings could be significant in using exercise as treatment for mental illness.

Indeed, a study at the University of Sydney has found evidence to that exercise can reduce the risk of dementia.

The findings of the research conducted at Dartmouth, published in the journal Neuroscience, suggest exercise can reduce characteristic behaviours in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. However, much of this research was based on work with animals. When applied to humans it seems genes determine whether exercise has any beneficial effect or not.

Nevertheless, these findings could still prove useful in predicting which ADHD children may respond to exercise as treatment. They also emphasise the importance of exercise in early life, while the brain is still growing and changing, as this results in more permanent wiring of the brain and therefore supports learning and memory.

First Psychology Scotland has centres in the following locations: Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk
Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk
Aberdeen: 01224-452-848, www.aberdeenpsychology.co.uk

Friday, 20 July 2012

Football and domestic abuse

Recent reports by BBC News have revealed a link between domestic abuse and international football tournaments.

During the 2010 World Cup, domestic violence surged. Figures from police forces across England revealed that when England lost to Germany there were 724 more cases of domestic abuse, an increase of 29%. However, it is not only losing that causes abuse to rise. When England beat Slovenia, there were 516 more cases reported which is an overall increase of 27%. Nevertheless, when England drew there was no significant impact on domestic abuse. It has been argued that football does not cause domestic abuse but it can, in some relationships, be an issue which compounds it.

Domestic violence is an attempt to exert power or control over another person using fear, intimidation, verbal abuse, threats or violence. Over time, victims often become isolated from family and friends, losing their network of social support, and the abuser may use increasingly brutal methods to control, leading to serious injury, hospitalisation, and even death.

Domestic violence is something that not only affects women, but men and children too. Indeed, domestic violence and child abuse often take place in the same family. Research has revealed that 50 - 70% of men who frequently assault their partners also abuse their children. This can result in physical injury, psychological harm or neglect and a link between violence in the family and juvenile delinquency has been demonstrated. Furthermore, abused children are six times more likely to commit suicide, 24% more likely to commit sexual assault crimes and a 50% more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. So, as you can see, as well as being destructive in itself, domestic violence can also have extremely damaging effects. 

Getting help

If you are affected by domestic abuse it is important to seek help to change the situation for the better, whether you are a victim or the person responsible for the violence. Often victims are too scared to seek help for fear of being harmed further or their family or friends being hurt, but it is important to break the cycle of domestic violence. 

First Psychology Scotland can help support those affected by domestic abuse while they rebuild their lives. For more details contact your local centre:

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk
Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk
Aberdeen: 01224-452-848, www.aberdeenpsychology.co.uk






Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Pride and prejudice

With controversy surrounding the recent European Football Championships which took place in Poland and the Ukraine, and in tribute of Nelson Mandela's birthday tomorrow, it seems fitting to draw the spotlight on the topic of discrimination and racism, in particular.

It is hardly surprising to learn that racial discrimination may be harmful to our health. Findings from a study conducted at Rice University found approximately 18% of black people and 4% of white people reported more physical symptoms and higher levels of emotional upset as a result of perceived treatment based on race. Indeed, the relationship between perceived racism and self-reported depression and anxiety is strong.

According to researchers at the University of British Columbia, it is how we feel about ourselves, particularly how we experience pride that determines our racist attitudes towards others who are different.

'Authentic' pride results from hard work and achievement whereas 'hubristic' originates from status which is gained through less authentic means such as money, power or nepotism. If we experience 'authentic' pride, it has been revealed that we are more likely to have empathy for others and are therefore less likely to be prejudiced or racist towards others.

However, the way we respond to racial insults varies widely according to where we are from. Research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin revealed African-American women compared to Asian-American women are more likely to directly rebuff racist comments. This difference is believed to reflect cultural differences and is based on work which demonstrates the distinct ways people from different cultures have of communicating, displaying emotion and managing conflict.

Either way our reaction to racism, whether direct or indirect, does not mean we are any less offended by it. What is more important though is to raise awareness of racial discrimination and the impact it can have on health and well-being.

First Psychology Scotland has centres in the following locations:

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk
Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk
Aberdeen: 01224-452-848, www.aberdeenpsychology.co.uk






Friday, 13 July 2012

Friday the 13th - is it a phobia?

From fear of commitment to another fear altogether, for those of you who hadn't noticed, today is Friday the 13th. For individuals who suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th) this day, which comes around at least once a year and as many as three, is feared so much that they will re-schedule appointments, dodge ladders and black cats, or indeed avoid anything they think might bring them bad luck. But is Friday the 13th a phobia?

A phobia is a form of anxiety disorder which causes distress for an individual and disrupts their everyday life as they go to great lengths to avoid certain situations and objects. Phobias are defined as 'a strong, excessive, irrational fear of something that actually poses little or no danger'. Approximately 2.5 million people in the UK suffer from phobias and women are twice as likely as men to suffer from panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and specific phobia, though men and women suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder and social phobia in equal measure.

Treatment for phobias involves behavioural techniques in which the client is exposed to their fear on a sliding scale until they are no longer frightened to confront their original phobia. For instance, if you were scared of injections the first step may be to see photos of needles, handle a needle and then watch videos of injections before you were eventually able to have an injection yourself.

Some argue Friday the 13th is the result of our tendency to copy other people. If, for instance, we see other people are concerned about something then we are likely to be concerned as well. By being aware of this tendency, staying positive and seeking out situations that disconfirm our fear then perhaps we will come to learn that something bad will NOT happen on Friday the 13th.

First Psychology Scotland has centres in the following locations:
Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk
Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk
Aberdeen: 01224-452-848, www.aberdeenpsychology.co.uk





Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Cohabitation - part II

Contrary to the woes of premarital cohabitation in our previous blog, evidence has recently come to light which suggests it is the individual's attitude toward the decision to live together that determines whether the relationship will succeed or fail. Couples who demonstrate commitment to each other before shacking up, by getting engaged for example, fair just as well as those who marry without living together first. Indeed, women may even reduce the risk of divorce if they make a conscious decision to live with their partner before marriage, though are twice as likely to part company if they serially cohabit. With this in mind, the decision to live together should not be taken lightly. Here is some advice on what to consider before doing so.

Speak now or forever hold your peace - discuss issues, such as chores or who's welcome in your home when you're not around, before you move in. This will save problems later down the line. If you're worried bringing issues up will cause an argument, then perhaps you shouldn't live together.

Discuss finances - paying more than either one of you can afford may result in the partner who subsidises the other being resentful. Make it clear that it is your choice to do so or if you think resentment may creep in, choose a place that is within both your means.

Have a trial run - spend a decent amount of time at each other's homes so you can identify your partner's habits and how they really live.

Don't be a nag - constantly nagging your partner about their annoying habits will not help. Living together involves negotiation. Find solutions that are not dependent on your partner changing and be prepared to change yourself.

Be independent - maintain friendships and your independence. This is  are important after you move in, otherwise you lose what you enjoy and ultimately, your own identity.

First Psychology Scotland has centres in the following locations:* Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
* Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk
* Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk
* Aberdeen: 01224-452848, www.aberdeenpsychology.co.uk

Friday, 6 July 2012

Cohabitation - part I

From co-operation at work to co-operation at home, premarital cohabitation is a popular and growing trend since the 1970s in all countries except catholic ones. For many, it is seen as a trial run before tying the knot, but is it such a good idea seeing the divorce rate for couples who cohabit are higher, and living together as a couple before marriage in the USA before 2000, was associated with lower marital satisfaction, lower commitment among men, poorer communication, higher marital conflict and higher rates of wife infidelity.

Some attribute this statistic to individuals having lower standards for those they are willing to live with than marry. A lot of couples live together for convenience, but it is inertia and the investment they have made which stop them from getting out or starting over again. This leads them to drift into marriage, rather than making a conscious decision to do so, which in turn, leads to disaster. Furthermore, 40% of couples who cohabit have children which push them together for the sake of the child but, in some cases, only for a while.

It doesn't have to be this way though if you avoid further obligations such as getting a puppy or having children. Before you commit be sure of what you really want, be honest with yourself and your partner about how you feel, what you need and expect from the relationship, and be straight about your motives for moving in together. Being open will encourage problem solving and better communication which will enable you to successfully overcome any issue, even after you are wed.

If you are having relationship difficulties and wish to book an initial session with one of our experienced practitioners to discuss these, please contact your local First Psychology centre at one of the following locations:

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk
Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk
Aberdeen: 01224-452848, www.aberdeenpsychology.co.uk















Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Co-workers from hell - part II

Following on from our previous blog, here are some more strategies on how to handle difficult co-workers.

As everyone is different, there is obviously not one single, sure fire way to deal with awkward workmates but there are some things you can do, or rather avoid doing that can make the situation better. Avoid:
  • sarcasm
  • defensiveness.
  • using 'you' - instead use 'I' and 'we' statements, as 'you' implies they are the problem not that the problem is shared. e.g. 'I don't understand' rather than 'You're not making sense'.
  • expressing emotion as this makes it difficult for the other person to keep up their high level of emotion. This can be done by keeping your voice soft and your tone even.
  • engaging. If the conflict continues and is not being resolved, then politely disengage from the situation by, for example, saying 'I think it would be better to discuss this when emotions aren't so high', then walk away. 
If none of the above work, you may need to remove yourself completely from the situation. By declining invitations out when you know your colleague will be present or choosing work assignments that do not involve you and your colleague working together.

You should also ask yourself whether your co-worker is completely to blame or whether you play a part in the problem, by being intolerant or a perfectionist for instance.

The only power your hellish co-worker has over you is that which you give them. By not engaging or reacting to their antics, you can save energy and be more productive, which in turn will put less stress on your body and mind.

First Psychology Scotland has centres in the following locations:Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk
Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk
Aberdeen: 01224-452848, www.aberdeenpsychology.co.uk