Wednesday, 30 December 2015

How to achieve your New Year's resolutions

New Year is often a time when we look to the past, take stock and think how we can improve and build for the future. It may be that we are hoping to improve at a skill, want to take up a new hobby or are looking to get fitter and more active - perhaps run a marathon. Whatever our goals, the best way to achieve them is to emulate the habits of tops sports people.

There's a good reason why only some people reach the top levels of sport. It takes a whole range of skills and behaviours, as well as an excellent ability at a sport, to join the sporting elite. 

The good news is that many of these behaviours aren't specific to sports.

Five habits of successful sports people that could help you achieve your goals


Here are five habits of successful sports people, that could help you achieve your goals in the coming year.

  1. Motivation: Keep motivated because if you really want it, you are more likely to achieve it. While this sounds simple, it can be hard to keep going when things get tough. Set yourself smaller goals on the way to achieving your larger goals and reward yourself when you achieve them, that way you will feel a sense of achievement and will see the rewards of your hard work along the way. 
  2. Consistency: Plan a routine to achieve your goals and make sure you follow it. Real success takes grit and determination. Getting up and doing what you have planned when you feel tired and have time to lie in takes real strength, but will help you keep up the momentum and stop you giving in. 
  3. Self belief: In order to succeed, you have to first believe you are capable of achieving it. Think about the goals you are trying to achieve and whether you truly believe you are capable. If not, think about why you believe this. Challenge how you think and learn to replace unhelpful thoughts, such as "I can't do this" with more helpful ones "I may find this hard, but there is nothing preventing me from achieving this". If there is something preventing you, e.g the date of the next marathon and your current level of fitness, it is important to acknowledge this and give yourself more time to achieve your desired outcome. Planning, building and being ambitious but realistic will help increase your self belief. 
  4. Resilience: Successful sports people have all failed at something in the past and they all have fears too. The difference is that they have learnt to manage their fears and anxieties and don't let them get in the way of their goals. Learn to manage your fears and you will be able to achieve much more in life.
  5. Self-nurturing: Keep yourself strong both mentally and physically to ensure you have the best chance of achieving your goals. Make sure you schedule in plenty of rest and relaxation as well as hard graft. 

Coaching

Did you know that coaching can help maximise your chances of achieving your goals? Whether your goals are work-related or more personal in nature, First Psychology's coaching professionals will work with you in a supportive way to help you overcome obstacles, improve confidence and keep motivated. For more information on coaching with First Psychology, click here to visit our website >

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Are you in control of your drinking?

Black Friday (also know as 'Mad Friday') is nearly upon us! Yes, you heard right. There is another Black Friday. But this one has nothing to do with shopping.

It's been named Black Friday by the emergency services and it's the last friday before Christmas - the most popular day for the office Christmas party. Need we say more!

As we mentioned, this day is when ambulances and emergency services are most in demand and this is largely due to the amount of alcohol consumed and the mishaps, brawls and traffic accidents that result from this.

While many are out for a good night out and in full control of what they consume, government statistics suggest that one in every 13 adults is actually dependent on alcohol in the UK. This is a staggering figure and shows just how important it is to know the signs of alcohol dependency so you can recognise them in yourself and others.

It is not easy to recognise the signs of alcohol dependency, particularly in ourselves. We may convince ourselves we can stop and that we're just out enjoying ourselves like everyone else. However, there are some common signs to look out for in yourself and others.

  • Stealing 
  • Lying and secretive behaviour that is out of character
  • Extreme mood changes 
  • Changes in weight
  • Mixing with different groups, new/unusual friends 
  • Changes to sleep patterns, such as sleeping more / less and at different times 
  • Having lots of cash one minute and none the next 
  • Changes in energy levels

If you recognise these signs in yourself or someone you know and feel you need help, take a look at our information sheet for lots of advice on dealing with alcohol dependency http://www.firstpsychology.co.uk/alcohol-dependency/

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Christmas and families

Christmas is often seen as a time for families. And whatever shape and size a family is there are often complex dynamics involved in interacting within the family unit.

Whether we come from a family we perceive as 'happy' or not, being a parent is not easy. We often come to parenting with preconceived ideas about how parenting and families should be. Many people struggle to shake off negative experiences from their own upbringing, which can come to the fore when we find ourselves parenting. Often parenting is as much about what we don't want for our children as it is about what we want. And our partner may have different views from us, to further complicate things.

Counselling Psychologist, Flora Maclay who works with many children and families at First Psychology's Edinburgh and Borders centres has been scouring some well known parenting books for some of her favourite parenting tips.

Top parenting tips


"Once finished, forget it"


Children forget quickly but some parents just cannot let a matter rest. Parents who are slow to forgive their children write off days of their lives with ongoing psychological warfare, quickly draining their emotional reserves. Lack of forgiveness also ensures that tensions remain high and maximum home unhappiness is guaranteed. Solution: Holding grudges only produces parents with hyper-tension - not stable, loving children. This is a major trap that parents fall into, so after each incident, forgive your little one and start again with a clean slate. A misbehaving child should be disciplined then and there, and the episode followed immediately by forgiveness. (New Toddler Taming by Dr Christopher Green)

"Lighten up"


Enjoy your kids. Being with them out of guilt or obligation is second-rate - they sense you are not really there in spirit. Experiment to find those activities that you both enjoy. Take the "Pressure to achieve" off your kids. Remember to laugh and muck about. (Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph)

"Be responsive rather than reactive"


Counter-intuitive parenting: Sometimes "go away" means "find a way to stay"
Knee-jerk reactions kick back! Ask, listen, discuss, and decide together especially when you feel a knee-jerk reaction coming on. (Girls will be girls by JoAnn Deak)

"Survive and thrive"


We've got great news for you: the moments you are just trying to survive are actually opportunities to help your child thrive. At times you may feel that the loving, important moments (like having a meaningful conversation about compassion or character) are separate from the parenting challenges (like fighting another homework battle or dealing with another melt-down). But they are not separate at all. When your child is disrespectful and talks back to you, when you are asked to come in for a meeting with the principal, when you find crayon scribbles all over your wall: these are survive moments, no question about it. But at the same time, they are also opportunites - even gifts - because a survive moment is also a thrive moment, where the important, meaningful work of parenting takes place. (The whole brain child by Dan Siegel and Tina)

So which is Flora's most recommended read? "If you read one book about parenting I would recommend 'The Whole Brain Child' by Dan Siegel which pulls together practical suggestions with an understanding of the underlying biology of the brain," says Flora.

Seeking the help of an expert

If you feel it may be beneficial to seek the support and help of a trained professional, First Psychology Scotland has many practitioners who are experienced in working with children, young people and families.

For further information about our work with children and young people, please click here >

For further information about our work with families, please click here >

Friday, 4 December 2015

Psychological Therapy - A Brief Guide

We know from the questions we're asked that many people find the different types of psychological therapy confusing. So we thought we'd give a brief summary of each type of therapy.

Counselling

Counselling is a popular therapy that involves talking to a trained practitioner about your problems and issues. It provides a safe place to talk about and think about your thoughts and feelings with someone outside of your social circle. Counselling is usually a short-term therapy and typically lasts from six to twelve sessions.
More about counselling >

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, like counselling, involves talking about problems and difficulties. However it is a more in-depth process which involves looking at your life as a whole rather than looking at specific problems. Psychotherapy provides a regular space for clients to talk about how they are and to work through patterns and issues they find difficult. One popular type of psychotherapy is IPT or interpersonal therapy, which focuses on relationships with others in relation to the issues and problems being experienced.
More about psychotherapy >

CBT

CBT (or cognitive behaviour therapy) also involves talking, but focuses specifically on our thought processes and behaviours and how these influence actions and mood. CBT is a popular approach which involves the client undertaking specific tasks outwith the therapy setting. CBT provides clients with a toolkit of techniques which can be used now and in the future. There are many other therapies which are rooted in CBT, but which may be more helpful in specific instances. Examples of these include: Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MCBT); Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT).
More about CBT >

Relationship Therapy

Relationship Therapy is similar to counselling, but with a focus on what is going wrong in a relationship.
More about Relationship Therapy >

Family Therapy

Family Therapy aims to help families or 'family-like groups' improve their situation in a constructive and supportive way. It aims to support and bring about change in families experiencing issues or behaviours that impact on the family as a whole.
More about Family Therapy >


Therapy for children / young people

Therapy for children and young people can involve a range of therapeutic approaches depending on the issues being experienced and the age of the child. Some approaches will be play based while others may involve behavioural therapies such as CBT.
More about Therapy For Children / Young People >

EMDR

EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing is a type of therapy that aims to replicate the rapid eye movement (REM) part of sleep that is thought to help process difficult or painful memories. It is mainly used for clients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However it is increasingly being used for other issues too.
More about EMDR >

Need help with an issue or problem?

If you have an issue or problem and think you may benefit from one of the above therapies, please do take a look at the links above for more about each therapy and watch our informative video below for more about what we do and the psychological services available at First Psychology's many centres across Scotland.


Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The Gift of Giving

Following on from the spending driven days of Black Friday last week and Cyber Monday yesterday, today is increasingly becoming known as Giving Tuesday, a global day devoted to thinking of others and giving back to the community.

Giving Tuesday began in 2012 to encourage people to donate their money, time and services to their community. Some examples include giving blood, donating to a charity, volunteering to help a charity or organisation, the list of how we can give to others is endless.

The idea of giving is, of course, one we are all familiar with, particularly at this time of year. The holiday season is a time when we traditionally give to others. However, we often see giving as about gifts rather than our time or services.

With many feeling the pinch of the latest government cuts and job losses, it is important to remember that giving something as simple as a smile or a kind act can brighten people's lives in ways that tangible gifts cannot reach.

And it is not just the recipient that benefits from your giving. In fact giving has been shown to release a similar 'high' of endorphins (the body's feel good chemical) as receiving or spending.

Research has shown that giving to others can actually boost your health and wellbeing and reduce stress too! And people who give their time in the form of voluntary work can look forward to improved mental wellbeing and a feeling of greater connectedness socially too.

Giving really is the gift that just keeps on giving! What are you giving this Giving Tuesday?



Friday, 27 November 2015

Some of the mysteries of counselling uncovered

We're often asked what counselling is all about and whether it's effective in helping people deal with the difficulties they may be having, so we thought we'd discuss some common issues in this blog post.

Counselling involves talking

You don't have to be a chatterbox to come for counselling, but the process does involve talking about the issues you are experiencing with a trained professional. Counselling provides a 'safe place' where you can talk openly without worrying what your friends, family or colleagues think about you or your thoughts. For that reason, it is important to work with someone you gel with and feel you can trust.

Choosing a therapist

There are different types of therapist who offer counselling and this can lead to confusion when trying to decide who to see. Counsellors, psychotherapists and counselling psychologists all offer counselling services and there are different counselling approaches to consider too. At First Psychology, we believe it's the therapeutic relationship between the practitioner and the client that is important. When thinking about counselling (or any type of therapy) always look at the information about each practitioner so you can pick who you think would work for you, or ask for assistance if you can't decide.

The counselling process

Often people worry about what will happen during their counselling session, particularly the first one. This is quite usual - it's an unknown process and is likely to bring up some uneasy feelings. You may wonder whether your problems are trivial compared to what your counsellor is used to working with. This is a very common worry. There is no such thing as a big problem or a small problem. What we look at is how you feel. If you feel the need to seek help, that's what matters most.

Sessions with a counsellor

When you come along for counselling, you will be greeted by your practitioner and taken into a private consulting room. At First Psychology's centres, the room will contain comfortable chairs where you can sit back and discuss the process and what you are hoping to get out of your sessions with your practitioner.  We like to add a few extra touches too, such as rugs, soft lighting and homely cushions to make the experience feel more relaxing. Usually counselling is a short-term process and typically lasts for between six and twelve sessions depending on the issues you are experiencing.

The typical counselling client

There's no such thing as a typical counselling client. We regularly consult with people of all ages - we work with  adults (16 upwards), adolescents (12-16) and children (under 12). We also work with couples and families. We know that people can experience issues and problems at any point in their lives no matter who they are or what they do for a living. Counselling can offer a place to verbalise problems and work through feelings and thoughts.

Does counselling work?

This is probably the most frequently asked question. There have been many research studies which have shown counselling to be an effective way of making things better. Some of the most common reasons people come for counselling include low mood, anxiety, panic, anger, behavioural issues, addictions, grief, eating distress, health concerns, and uncertainty for a number of reasons. However everyone's situation is unique and often it is a combination of different things that lead people to seek help.

Thinking of getting started?

If you're looking for a counselling professional, always check to see what their training and experience is before making an appointment. That way you can be sure your practitioner is fully trained and experienced, and you can relax and get the most out of the process.

If you'd like to talk through what counselling services we have available at First Psychology's centres, please do get in touch. We would be happy to discuss your options with you.


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

How to survive Christmas with the family

With less than six weeks until Christmas, the thought of spending time with your extended family may have started to make its way to the front of your mind. While we are bombarded with advertising images of happy families and couples enjoying the big day, in reality things are often not so rosy.

While the thought of spending time with your siblings and their children, or you or your partner's parents may be idylic in your head, it may be that in reality they always seems to rub you up the wrong way and leave you feeling cross or upset.

Read our tips to keeping your family on an even keel so nobody ends up in the dog house this Christmas!

Parents and parents in-law

"Parents can have a powerful effect on their grown up children. While we often look forward to spending time with our parents, being in their company for extended periods can lead to discussions and niggles coming to the fore," says Professor Ewan Gillon, Counselling Psychologist and Clinical Director of First Psychology Scotland.

"It can sometimes feel that our parents are criticising us when we don't do things their way. They in turn may feel disappointed that we aren't acknowledging their experience and wisdom or treating them with the respect they deserve."

"Everyone has a preconceived vision of how they would like Christmas to be and when reality doesn't agree with this vision, it can be hard to deal with," says Professor Gillon.

"Being in the company of anyone for extended periods of time is likely to draw out disagreements and resentment and it is important to recognise this and not allow things to escalate. When there is a history, such as with parents, where they have once made decisions for us and we may have been resistant to this, it can sometimes be hard for both parties not to slip back into old habits."

Relationship issues

When 'forced' to spend more uninterrupted time with a partner, relationship issues and arguments can arise and things can become heated. It is not a coincidence that so called 'divorce day' - when more couples file for divorce than any other day in the year  - occurs in January, says Professor Gillon. "For couples who are having relationship difficulties, an extended period together can cause rifts and resentments to bubble up and bring things to a head. Sometimes things are said in the heat of the moment, or the pressure builds to a point where people feel the only way is out," he says.

Don't let things escalate!

Whether you're spending the Christmas period with your partner alone, your immediate family or extended family, or they are staying with you, Professor Gillon's advice can help you all enjoy the experience.

"The best way to survive extended Christmas contact with relatives is to pre-plan time away from each other and also time together with a joint focus, he says. Time out, such as popping upstairs to read your book away from it all, popping out to see a friend for an evening, going out for a drink with just your partner (when you have a full house), etc can provide a valuable opportunity to refocus and gain perspective on things," says Professor Gillon.

"Joint focus activities, such as going for a walk together in the woods, provides a positive joint experience and as such increases bonding. And there is the added bonus of releasing some tension when taking exercise too. Just don't overdo it, or it may backfire and make you all exhausted and grumpy, he laughs."

Family Stress At Christmas - A Survival Guide!

If you're worried about spending time with family over the holiday period and would like some more survival tips, then First Psychology Scotland will be hosting a free webinar during which Professor Gillon will provide pointers and advice to help you survive Christmas with the family. The webinar will take place from 6-7pm on Monday 7 December 2015.

Find out more and book your place today!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Managing social anxiety during the 'social season'

This time of year is popular for halloween parties, fireworks parties and, dare we say it, Christmas parties - yes they are not far away! And of course, parties mean social interactions. While many people look forward to a good knees up, those with social anxieties may experience feelings of dread as the party season approaches.

What is social anxiety?


Social anxiety is a particular type of anxiety that involves extreme shyness and feelings of anxiety specifically relating to social interactions. People with this type of anxiety typically feel self-conscious around others and may feel inferior or judged. Social anxiety is extremely common and may accompany other issues such as depression.

Types of social anxiety


Specific Social Phobia: While some people may struggle in a party environment, some sufferers of social anxiety are able to mix with people and socialise normally in most instances. However they may struggle with a particular aspect of social interaction, such as public speaking, or eating in front of others and fear that something is going to go wrong.

General Social Phobia: Other people may become anxious whenever they are around others. They may feel judged or watched and this can be incredibly disabling for them. Often people with this type of social phobia feel the only way to cope with their feelings is to avoid social situations. As a result they may struggle to form long-term relationships.

The symptoms of social anxiety


There are many physical symptoms of social anxiety and everyone is different, but some of the most common symptoms include: sweating, blushing, trembling, dry mouth, finding it hard to breathe, and palpitations.

Those with social anxieties often over analyse social situations that are coming up worrying about what could go wrong. Or they may dwell on past situations and think what they could have done better, or what others thought of them.

People with such anxieties are usually aware of them and may use a number of coping mechanisms  to alleviate the symptoms such as alcohol, drugs or avoidance of the social situation altogether.

What is the cause of social phobia?


It is not fully understood why some people get socially anxious. It can run in families but it is not known whether this is due to biological or social factors. Bullying or teasing at school can also have a bearing on how we interact as adults, as can how we were treated by family and friends as children.

Seeking help for social anxiety


The good news, if you're reading this as a sufferer of social anxiety, is that social anxieties can be effectively treated. There are a number of approaches you can take to dealing with a social anxiety from developing your social skills to make you feel more in control to self-help books and prescription drugs.

One popular, evidence-based, drug-free approach commonly used in the NHS for anxiety is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).

CBT has been shown to be very successful for treating people with anxiety related issues. CBT involves looking at the relationship between how you think and how you feel. By learning CBT techniques, people can learn to recognise unhelpful thought patterns and work to change these to improve their mood.

Managing anxiety using CBT techniques workshops


First Psychology is running workshops on managing anxiety using CBT skills later this month in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The workshops will be led by Tom Seath. Tom is a CBT practitioner with a wealth of experience working with people using CBT techniques for a wide range of issues including anxiety. Participants of these short workshop will take away a toolkit of techniques and skills that they can use to reduce their feelings of anxiety in difficult situations.

Further details of our workshops on Managing Anxiety Using CBT Skills >


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Dealing with Anxiety

Anxiety is the body's way of dealing with something stressful. Feeling anxious in a stressful situation is a common and natural human reaction. There are a whole range of situations that can bring about stress and anxiety: from going on holiday or getting married to a job interview or preparing to perform on stage. Anything that may be stressful (no matter how much you are looking forward to it) can bring about anxiety too.

Common symptoms of anxiety


Anxiety affects different people in different ways, but some of the most common symptoms are a dry mouth, pounding heart, feeling breathless, fatigue or difficulty sleeping, dizziness and headaches, lack on concentration, needing the toilet frequently, constant worrying, irritability, and nausea.

Why do we get anxiety?


There is no one reason why people get anxious as anxiety is specific to each individual. Some of the most common reasons include:


  • Feeling out of control - general worries about routine events (often called Generalised Anxiety Disorder)
  • Finding social situations difficult and stressful (often called Social Anxiety)
  • Anxiety relating to past events and worrying that these may be repeated in the future (often called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)


Managing anxiety using CBT 


If you're wondering how to manage anxiety in yourself or someone you know, it can be quite a scary prospect. Often people worry they will make things worse. It is important to focus on the benefits of learning to manage anxiety. Think about all the things you would find more pleasant / enjoyable if you were able to manage them.

One approach that is commonly used for treating anxiety is cognitive behaviour therapy. Cognitive behaviour therapy, or CBT as it is more commonly known, focuses on how thinking patterns can create and maintain problems. By learning to identify and change our thinking patterns, we can learn to manage feelings of anxiety and stress.

Learning CBT techniques can be extremely helpful in managing anxiety and indeed CBT is the mainstream treatment for depression and anxiety in the NHS as it has been shown to be as effective as medication for these issues.

Workshop: Taking Charge of anxiety 


First Psychology's Tom Seath, experienced CBT  psychotherapist will facilitate two workshops this autumn. The workshops taking place in Edinburgh and Glasgow will look at anxiety and how it affects us and introduce participants to CBT techniques which can be used to effectively manage anxiety and anxiety provoking circumstances.

Why not book a place and join us to find out how to start managing your anxiety!

Click here for more details of our Taking Charge of Anxiety workshops >

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Mindfulness courses - book a place!

Mindfulness courses


First Psychology is holding a number of courses and workshops on mindfulness this autumn / winter. Mindfulness is a popular approach which has been demonstrated to reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing. It has its roots in ancient meditation practices and is incorporated in many popular pastimes, such as yoga and tai chi. 

Learning to be more mindful will allow you to bring your mind into the present moment and you will start to notice the things that have been passing you by, such as the feeling of the wind on your face, the sound of leaves rustling, and the smell of the air. 

As you become more mindful, your mind will focus less on thoughts about the past and the future. These thoughts create stress and prevent your mind from resting. Mindfulness will teach you to calm your mind.

For further details or to book a place, please click the links below:

An Introduction To Mindfulness (6 Week Course) >
starting Glasgow Monday 19 October 2015
starting Edinburgh Friday 6 Novemeber 2015

Mindfulness For Hectic Lives  - (A Short Workshop For Busy People) >
Inverness: 17 November 2015
Aberdeen: 19 November 2015
Dundee: 1 December 2015
Borders: 8 December 2015

BOOK YOUR PLACE NOW TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Lessons from sport

In the next few weeks, Sir Alex Ferguson will reveal the secrets of his success in leadership at two talks taking place in Scotland. (Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow on 28 September 2015; Music Hall, Aberdeen on 1 October 2015)

The former football manager will talk about the leadership skills he developed during his long football management career and the many lessons he has learned along the way.

Can we learn from sport?

You may wonder whether the skills required of someone in a high profile sports management role can be transferred to someone who perhaps manages a business or a team of individuals within a large organisation.

Interestingly, the sports world has by its very competitive nature, been a key area of expertise in not only sports coaching but also performance coaching.

In recent years there has been much written on the subject of what has been termed 'the inner game' and how the way we think can make a huge impact on how we perform. Self belief and confidence in our abilities are key to being successful and achieving our goals.

Whether the goals are sports related, work related or personal achievements, confidence and self-belief are essential to doing your best along with a number of other factors that have been shown to be common among successful sports people.

NEW WORKSHOP - Focus: Lessons From Sport


If you're looking to improve your performance in an area of your life, then you can absolutely do it and the best place to start is by learning from successful sports people.

In a new workshop run by Dr Fani Papayianni, you will examine the key behaviours necessary for achieving your full potential - whether in the workplace or in your personal life - and look at ways you can incorporate these behaviours into your life.

Workshop Dates
Glasgow: 6-8pm, Wednesday 7 October 2015 - more details >
Edinburgh: 6-8pm, Wednesday 3 February 2015 - more details >

Don't delay, places are limited!

BOOK YOUR PLACE TODAY AND START YOUR JOURNEY TO ACHIEVING YOUR GOALS!







Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Facing freshers week can be an anxious time for those with social anxiety

It's that time of year when all the hard work of exams pays off and young people pack up their things and head off to university full of excitement about the future.

Freshers week, the first week back when 'freshers' or new students are traditionally welcomed to the university, is usually full of social events.

It is common for new students to feel excited at the thought of starting something new and meeting new friends. It is also usual to have general worries about fitting in, getting on with new people, whether you are good enough for your course, etc. Whenever we experience change in our lives, it is often a time when we also experience stress and anxiety. This is a normal part of life.

However, some people also suffer from social anxiety issues and those people may experience dread at the mere thought of Freshers Week.

Tips for dealing with social situations


If you are feeling highly anxious about Freshers Week, here are some tips for dealing with social situations.

1. Try to time your arrival so you are not entering a room full of people you don't know or waiting in an empty room for people to arrive, both of which can be stressful.

2. Before you enter the room, focus on your breathing, Try to think about the cool air slowly entering your body through your nose and the warm air slowly leaving your body through your mouth.

3. Walk slowly but confidently and look for a signing in table, drinks table or bar as people are often waiting to register / be served and are often alone and more easy to engage in small talk.

4. When talking to people, try to make eye contact and be curious about them and smile.

5. Try to find common ground - it is much easier to talk to people you have something in common with. And don't forget that everyone starting university will be keen to make friends too!

Learn to manage your anxiety using CBT techniques


If you feel anxiety is something you would like to learn to manage, First Psychology is holding workshops this autumn in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Click here for further details of our 'Taking Charge of Anxiety: Using CBT Skills' workshops >


More about social anxiety

Read our web page about social anxiety >

Monday, 7 September 2015

Mindfulness is everywhere

You can't step into a bookshop at the moment without coming face to face with a myriad of mindfulness books. From colouring books for adults and children to self-help books and even a mindfulness diet book, mindfulness is the answer to everything, it seems. So what is mindfulness and does it work?

Is mindfulness a new thing?

Although mindfulness may seem, at first glance, to be the latest fad, it has actually been around for hundred of years. It has its roots in Eastern meditation practices and was first introduced into modern health care by Jon Zabat-Zinn.

How does mindfulness work?

The practice of mindfulness trains the mind to focus on the present moment: our breath, the cool breeze on our skin, the warmth of the sun, the sound of the birds...

In the hectic world in which we live, it can be hard not to get bogged down by the constant 'internal chatter' of our minds. We may travel from A to B without even noticing anything about our journey because we are so focused on our thoughts. Our minds are thinking and creating all the time and mindfulness teaches us to become more aware of ourselves and our surroundings rather than residing in our minds.

There are many exercises and techniques you can use to practise mindfulness and many tools you can use to focus your mind on the present moment. It sounds simple, but it is actually quite a skill to allow your thoughts to flow freely in and out of your mind, but not to engage with them.

With practice mindfulness has been shown to improve wellbeing, reduce stress and make us happier.
That is because no matter what has happened in the past or what we are working towards achieving, happiness resides in the present.

Mindfulness research

Recent research carried out by the University of Oxford showed participants to have reduced levels of anxiety, depression and stress following a mindfulness course. There have also been other studies suggesting beneficial effects on school children and young people.

Mindfulness courses

First Psychology is holding a number of courses and workshops on mindfulness this autumn / winter. Find out how mindfulness can help reduce your stress levels and improve your overall wellbeing. For further details or to book a place, please click the links below:

An Introduction To Mindfulness (6 Week Course) >
starting Glasgow Monday 19 October 2015
starting Edinburgh Friday 6 Novemeber 2015

Mindfulness For Hectic Lives  - (A Short Workshop For Busy People) >
Inverness: 17 November 2015
Aberdeen: 19 November 2015
Dundee: 1 December 2015
Borders: 8 December 2015

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Learning lessons from top sports people

Those of the less sporty among us, may have distant memories of being made to run four laps around the school sports field as a warm up before embarking on the sport for that day. It's not surprising then that these memories may have been pushed to the backs of our minds - sport isn't for us and we are glad we no longer have to do it. But wait, are we throwing the baby out with the bath water? Can we learn lessons from sport that are useful in our lives more generally, and if so what are they?

While many people struggle to manage pressure in their everyday lives and perhaps fail to achieve their goals as a result of this, elite sports people manage to achieve their goals despite the pressure. So what can we 'steal' from the way top athletes do things, to use in our own lives?

Five lessons we can 'steal' from top sports people

1. Keep motivated

If you have one specific goal to achieve, set yourself a range of related goals to keep you motivated along the way and reward yourself when you achieve each goal.

2. Follow a routine

Work out what steps you need to follow to achieve your goal. Plan a routine and follow it. Being successful takes a great deal of commitment so be prepared to work hard.

3. Believe in your ability

To succeed in something, you need to believe you are capable of doing it. Think about the way you think and whether you truly believe in what you are trying to achieve. If not, think why not and challenge your thought processes. Replace your unhelpful thoughts "I can't do this" with helpful realistic ones "I am going to find this very hard, but there is nothing suggesting I can't do it".

4. Manage your anxiety and adopt helpful behaviours

When you challenge yourself, you are likely to feel anxious and fearful. Learn to manage these feelings and you will be able to achieve more.

5. Look after yourself

Look after yourself physically and mentally to ensure you are in the best frame of mind to achieve your goals. Don't overload your schedule and plan in time to relax.

Workshop: Focus, performance and wellbeing - lessons from sport

Dr Fani Papayianni, an experienced counselling psychologist at First Psychology Glasgow will be looking at the psychological lessons that elite sports professionals use to manage pressure and find success. She is running two workshops on the subject this autumn/winter in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Book a place today and learn how you can improve your chances of success by using lessons from successful sports people!

Click here to find out more about these workshops and to BOOK A PLACE >

Friday, 10 July 2015

Tackling common fears


As holiday season hots up, we take a look at ways to tackle some of the most common fears.

Fears are our in-built way of keeping us safe – they remind us that certain things, such as snakes, can be dangerous, so we give them a wide berth and stay alive.

However, sometimes we develop an intense fear of an object or situation that prevents us from carrying on with life on a day-to-day basis. 

Symptoms of fear and phobia


There are many symptoms associated with intense fears and phobias, such as shaking; feeling confused/disoriented; sweating; feeling sick and dizzy; rapid heart beats; chest pains;  a dry mouth; and difficulty breathing. Some sufferers may also fear losing control, fainting or dying. These symptoms are commonly experienced by those with anxieties such as fear and phobias. 

Common fear and phobias


People fear all sorts of things, however there are some more common ones. These include public speaking, animals, flying, open spaces, enclosed spaces, the dark, heights, being ill. While some objects of fear may be things we rarely encounter, often people fear things that are impossible to avoid, such as open spaces.

Should I do anything about my fear?


If your fear is so intense that it is preventing you from living your life, then the answer is yes. For example, if you are unable to get on a train, and this is by far the most convenient way to get to work, then your fear is causing you problems and you would be advised to take action. 

Professional help


Desensitisation: In order to tackle your fear you will need to come face to face with it. One popular approach is called desensitisation, which is commonly associated with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Desensitisation is a staged process, so you can get used to the object of your fear before facing it head on. It involves slow, controlled exposure to the object or situation of fear so that over time you feel more comfortable with it. Desensitisation is best carried out in consultation with a trained professional in this area. 

Talking therapies: may also be helpful for getting to the bottom of why you have the fear.

Self help: There are many things you can do to help with your fear:
 
  1. Try to imagine the worst that could happen if your fears were realised.
  2. Talk to friends and family and allow them to understand what you are experiencing.
  3. Learn some relaxation techniques. Often people report their fears increase when they are stressed or anxious so taking time to relax can really help particularly if you are experiencing physical symptoms.
  4. Exercise regularly and eat a healthy balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables. This will help aid relaxation and can also improve some of the physical symptoms of fear.
  5. Reading: Websites and self help books can be a helpful way of getting started on tackling a phobia. http://www.nopanic.org.uk is a good website for panic and anxiety related issues.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

How to improve your sleep hygiene

Participants at our Sleep Well webinar yesterday evening received lots of information from psychologist, Jaclyne Di Croce about sleep, sleep problems and sleep disorders and ways we can improve our sleep quality. 

In particular Jaclyne introduced the concept of 'sleep hygiene' and ways to improve yours. Sleep hygiene can not only help you if you already have a sleep problem, but it can also prevent any future sleep problems.

Here are some of Jaclyne's tips for achieving good sleep hygiene

Keep it regular

Try to maintain a regular sleeping and waking routine - this includes weekends and holidays too! Your body will get used to this and start winding down automatically as you near your regular sleep time.

Keep your bed for sleeping

Aim to spend an appropriate amount of time in bed and don't work or do other tasks such as sending emails etc from your laptop or phone in bed or watching tv as you can start to associate your bed with work or entertainment, not sleep.

Avoid stimulants before bed

Try to avoid stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine before bed as these can perk you up when you need to calm down.

Exercise

Take regular exercise to work your muscles and rid your body of pent up tension.

Watch your food

Avoid heavy meals just before bed as they can be disruptive to your sleep as your body works to digest them.

Get outside

Aim to get out side during the day to expose your body to natural daylight. This helps promote a healthy sleep/wake cycle.

Prepare your room

Make sure your bedroom is warm, pleasant and relaxing. Dim the lights and remove or turn off all distractions such as phones and tablets.

If you missed this webinar, keep your eye on our Autumn programme of wellbeing events, coming soon!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

How to make friends with technology in the age of 'work/life merge'

The school holidays are fast approaching and with them the possibility of beach visits and time to chill out. Not so long ago, holidays were likely to have been a time when we had no contact with work. However more and more people are choosing to keep in touch with work while on their holidays or days off. And people's social lives are coming into the workplace too with many people checking and commenting on social media posts while at work.

It is clear that something is happening to our lives in the face of mobile technology - what were once two distinct areas of our lives are merging into one and this has been dubbed 'work/life merge'.

So what of this 'work/life merge' and if we vow to keep our working and social lives separate, will that reduce our stress levels?

Unfortunately it's not that straightforward. First Psychology recently carried out research on the impact of technology on work-life balance and found that 89 per cent of participants checked their work emails in the evenings and the figure was an even higher 94 per cent for morning and before work checking. While we found that work was definitely coming into the home, we also found that staff continued to use social media sites while at work and interestingly felt this helped to reduce their stress levels.

If mobile technologies aren't raising stress levels, what is making people more stressed?

From our research, it seems that having control over how we use mobile technology is vital if we are to keep stress levels down. Some people find receiving work texts and emails while on holiday stressful, whereas others like to know what's going on and struggle with 'radio silence'. Simply placing restrictions on people's working hours, use of technology, etc does not help reduce stress and indeed often causes more stress as people try to fit into a restricted way of working. The key is use technology in ways that work for you.

If you're the sort of person who finds 'radio silence' stressful:

  • While on holiday, set aside certain times every day to check your messages and stick to these times.
  • Try to switch off your phone after a certain time each evening to give yourself time to completely switch off before bed.
  • Keep mobile use to a minimum while meeting friends and family. If you're eating out, perhaps check your phone between courses and put it away while eating. 

If you're the sort of person who feels invaded by mobile technology:

  • Make use of technology where it helps you stay flexible, for example, you can use it to stay in touch with work while at home waiting for the boiler repair man, or while away on business.
  • Set aside times to check and respond to emails so you don't feel constantly interrupted and obliged to immediately reply.
What was clear from our research was that mobile technology can be both friend AND foe, it's how you use it that matters, and for it to become a friend, the decision on how it's used has to be personal to you.

Read our full research report on the impact of technology on work/life balance  >

Friday, 24 April 2015

Can you spot the signs of depression in young people?

In our final post during Depression Awareness Week, we wanted to highlight a group of people  who are known to be moody as a matter of course - we do of course mean teenagers.

Of course, the tendency of teenagers to have mood swings and to be independent is quite normal. As well as hormonal issues, there is a lot of change, anxiety and pressure at this life stage, so it stands to reason that there will be mood swings.

However this tendency can make it harder to spot signs of more serious issues, such as depression, in this age group.

How can I spot the signs?

When it comes to depression, the key is to consider the length and severity of the symptoms. Long lasting, uncharacteristic changes in personality, behaviour or mood are good indicators that something is not right. 

Teenagers who are depressed may become irritable, hostile and prone to angry outbursts. They may not take criticism very well and be particularly sensitive to being rejected or to failing. You may notice some changes in friendships, although many teenagers with depression manage to maintain their friendships. Depressed teenagers will often distance themselves from their parents or start hanging out with a new crowd. They may also complain about physical ailments that seem to have no  cause.

Spotting the signs of depression in teenagers is vital to getting them the help they need at this stressful life stage. 

Here are 10 signs that your teenager may be suffering from depression

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Loss of interest/pleasure in activities
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • Fatigue/lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of death/suicide

If you need help and want to know more about depression and what you can do about it, please read our information sheet for further details >

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Depression Awareness: Helping Men Seek Help

This week is depression awareness week and in our previous post we looked at what depression is.

At First Psychology Scotland's centres we work with people of all ages and from all types of background and we see the evidence every day. Depression doesn't just affect one type of person - anyone can suffer from depression at any point in their life.

Men are often overlooked

However when it comes to thinking about depression, men are often overlooked. There are a number of reasons for this. Traditional ways of assessing people for depression looked at the symptoms which up until recently had been the symptoms reported by women. That is because women are more likely to seek help. Indeed many men have been brought up to be big and strong and not to cry or admit weakness. They may not share their feelings with their friends, family or even their partner. This can prevent men seeking help.

The signs that a man may need help

Men actually experience the same range of issues and problems as women, but their coping strategies differ and they may drink excessively or take drugs, over-work, eat unhealthily or undertake risky/self-harming behaviours to deal with their feelings. 

Does therapy work for men?

Once men have got over the initial hurdle of admitting they need help, therapy can be a huge relief, allowing them to open up about their feelings in a safe environment where they won't be judged. Indeed surveys have shown that men and women report and equal level of satisfaction with the experience of therapy and counselling. 

Further information

If you would like further information about our 'therapy for men' service, please visit our website >

Monday, 20 April 2015

How do you know if you're depressed?

It is Depression Awareness Week this week and everyone will be familiar with the term 'depression' being used in everyday conversation to describe someone who is feeling miserable, but what really constitutes depression and how can you tell the difference between low mood and depression?

What is depression?

Someone who is suffering from depression will not simply feel a little bit down for a few weeks, they will experience low mood, loss of interest or enjoyment in activities, and low self-esteem over a prolonged period of time. They may find it hard to deal with daily life and may not feel able to cope with day-to-day activities.

Common symptoms of depression 

There are many different symptoms associated with depression including:

Changes in feelings: feeling agitated, irritated or angry; feeling worthless or helpless; low confidence; guilt; feeling you have lost control of your life; and suicidal thoughts.

Changes in behaviour: increased aggression towards others; losing your temper quickly; taking more risks than usual; finding it hard to concentrate on tasks; reduced interest in social activities; little interest in sex; and lack of motivation to take care of yourself by eating properly, keeping clean or exercising.

You may also experience an increased or reduced appetite and thus rapid weight loss or gain; and difficulty sleeping.

Of course everyone is different and so some people may experience a few of these symptoms while others may experience nearly all of them and in varying degrees of severity.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Are you an assertive communicator?

What sort of communicator are you? 

If you find it hard or feel guilty about expressing your view point or feel angry and lose your temper when others disagree with you then you may be a non-assertive communicator.

Lacking assertiveness skills, non-assertive communicators may be passive and submit to the dominance of others or they may be aggressive and dominate social interactions. 

Often aggression and dominance is what people think of when they think about assertiveness, but assertiveness is not about this.

What is assertiveness?

Assertiveness is about feeling able to express your view point and feelings in an open and honest way as well as listening respectfully to the views and feelings of others. 

An assertive communicator will feel able to say 'no' to the unfair demands of others without feeling guilty or anxious. This may sound easy, but expressing your viewpoint without bullying and dominating others and without feeling guilty later is a skill that many lack. 

Tips for becoming more assertive

There are plenty of things you can do to become more assertive.

  • Take a course or join a local group: Practice is vital and a local group or training course will be able to help set you on the right path.
  • Watch your body language: Our bodies often send out messages about us without us being aware, so learning to stand up straight, walk with confidence and to make and maintain eye contact are all good ways of feeling and showing you are more in control, which in turn can help you stay calm and feel more assertive.
  • Role play: Practise going through difficult situations with a friend and remember to swap roles so you can see both perspectives. 
  • Take time to reflect before reacting: Often when a situation is stressful or we feel put on the spot, we react without thinking. Consciously try to take a step back, take a deep breath and reflect on what you are going to say before speaking. Over time this will become easier to do without thinking about it.
  • Don't give up on your message: Be ready to repeat your message if you feel it is being dismissed or ignored.

Further information

First Psychology Scotland is running a four week course 'Assertive Skills For Women' in Edinburgh, starting on 13 May 2015. If you are interested in taking part or finding out more, click here for further details of Assertiveness Skills For Women

Friday, 20 March 2015

International Day of Happiness


Today is International Day of Happiness 2015 so we thought we'd look at the psychology of happiness. Happiness is a complex and changing state, however there are a number of factors that have been shown to improve our chances of being happy.

Personality

Although 50% of our happiness comes from external sources, such as personal connections with others, our health and our working lives, research conducted at the University of Edinburgh and Queensland Institute suggests that happiness is partly determined by our personalities. And they found that this is largely hereditary. The researchers discovered that people who are sociable, conscientious and do not excessively worry tend to be happier.

If it's in my genes, can I ever be happy?

The good news is that while half of our happiness is linked to our genes, we can still experience happiness. 

Research by Lyubomirsky suggests that we have the ability to influence 40% of our happiness, with the remaining 10% relating to our life circumstances, so there is still hope whether happiness is in your genes or not.

The key to happiness

The following six variables have been linked to greater happiness:
  • Being optimistic
  • Being outgoing/extrovert
  • Having positive self-esteem
  • Feeling in control of your life
  • Having positive relationships in your life
  • Having a purpose to life

Becoming happier

Read our ten tips to happiness >



Friday, 13 March 2015

Friday the 13th - fears and phobias

You may have noticed that today is Friday 13th, a day that many consider to be bad luck. But did you know that some people actually suffer from a condition known as 'paraskevidekatriaphobia' or to those of us who have a problem pronouncing such things, a fear of Friday the 13th.

Those who experience this phobia, in common with phobia sufferers in general, will go out of their way to avoid doing anything that may result in bad luck on this day. For example, they may cancel/ reschedule appointments or avoid travelling because their fear that something terrible will happen is so great.

So is this really a phobia?
In general terms, a phobia is a strong, irrational fear that something poses a danger when in fact that thing poses little or no danger in reality. 

Some of the most common phobias include: flying, spiders, snakes, driving, needles, enclosed spaces, and public speaking. A fear of Friday the 13th is less common, but it can be a phobia all the same.

Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder and it has been estimated that between 2.5 and 10 million people in the UK suffer from them. Estimates vary widely because often people don't seek help from a health professional for their phobias and instead aim to manage them themselves.

Symptoms of fear and phobia
According to www.nhs24.com people who suffer from intense fears may shake; feel confused or disoriented; and have rapid heart beats, dry mouth, intense sweating, difficulty breathing, nausea, dizziness and chest pain. Many sufferers also fear losing control, fainting or dying. 

Help for phobias
You may not need to seek help for a phobia. The general rule of thumb is that if your fear is preventing you from doing things you would like to do, or need to do, then it is something you should seek help with. For example, if you are unable to go on holiday with your family because of your fear of flying, or you are unable to get into a lift but work on the 10th floor of a tall office block, then you may consider getting help. 

Help for phobias
The most effective treatments for phobias involve behavioural techniques, which consist of exposure to the object of fear on a sliding scale. For example, if you have a fear of spiders, you may first be asked to look at pictures of them, then videos of them moving, and finally you may be asked to come into actual close contact with a spider. 

More information and help

World Sleep Day - sleep well!

Today is World Sleep Day, a day that aims to raise awareness of the importance of sleep on our health and wellbeing.

How much sleep we need varies widely and depends in part on our age - the older we are, the less sleep our bodies tend to need. However according to the Mental Health Foundation, we now sleep about 90 minutes less each night than we did in the 1920s, so there are clearly many people living life in a sleep deprived state.

Why is sleep important? 
Sleep affects how we think and behave. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep affects activity in the brain and can lead to low mood, negative thoughts and loneliness.

How to improve your sleep 
The World Association of Sleep Medicine suggests establishing a regular bedtime and waking time and advises that daytime sleep (naps or siestas) should not exceed 45 minutes. While exercise is generally beneficial when it comes to sleep, the association advises not doing exercise just before bed as it can make it hard to switch off.

Professor Ewan Gillon, Chartered Psychologist and Clinical Director of First Psychology Scotland, says practising good 'sleep hygiene' is key to getting a good night's sleep. "Often people who find it hard to sleep become anxious about the whole thing and this in turn can make it even harder to get a good sleep," says Ewan. "Allocating time for relaxation during the day and establishing a good routine before bed can really make a huge difference."

Here are Ewan's tips to help you achieve a good night's sleep.

Keep it regular 
Try to keep to a regular sleeping and waking pattern and exercise every day.

Allow yourself time to wind down
Wind down with a relaxing hobby, a warm bath, a good book, or the radio.

Leave technology out of the bedroom
Take a technology break 30 minutes before bedtime - no emails, texts, or TV. If your mind is busy thinking about all the things you have to do, then write a to do list.

Go easy on your system
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and heavy meals close to bedtime.

Learn to relax
Practise relaxation techniques - make it a regular thing for maximum benefit.

Further information on getting a better sleep

Want to find out more about sleeping well? Book a place on our free 'Sleep Well' webinar today!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Raising Confident Children - 3 common myths about confidence

We all know from our own childhood (and adult) experiences that being confident greatly improves our chances of happiness and success in life. So how can you tell if your child is confident and are you doing the right things to help boost their confidence and self-esteem? We look at three common myths about confidence in children.

1. Praise is always good right? 
While it is true that praising your child is beneficial, overpraising is not.

Tip: Think about how often and why you praise your child. Only praise them for real achievements and be specific about your reasons for praising them.

2. If my child can speak in class and make themselves heard, they are confident, aren't they?
No, this is not necessarily the case at all. Children have different personalities and some children will be naturally quiet while others will be more outgoing.

Tip: Look for other signs that your child is confident, such as them being able to express their needs and wishes in an assertive way.

3. My child is very busy doing activities - I've been told that boosts confidence, is that right?
While taking part in after school and weekend activities is great for children it can mean there is little time left for one-to-one time with your child.

Tip: Try to set aside time with each of your children every day if possible, even if you only have five minutes with each child. Spending time with them away from distractions: playing a game, reading or asking them about their day will make them feel that you want to be with them and this will help them feel more confident about themselves.

Find out more about raising confident children:


Monday, 23 February 2015

Growing up with confidence - childhood to adulthood

Reading lots on social media today about the film 'Boyhood' due to its recent Oscar nominations.

Boyhood is the ultimate film about a boy growing up - it was filmed over a 12 year period using the same actors throughout. This allows viewers to marvel at each and every change in the boy's appearance and character, as he grows up and reaches manhood.

Of course, while the boy is really growing up during the film-making process, the film itself aims to represent the trials and tribulations of growing up. 

We all know this comes with many highs and lows. There are birthdays and parties, holidays and new friendships, but there are also numerous instances of sadness, humiliation and loneliness along the way. 

There is no doubt that while getting older is a beautiful and necessary process, it can be hard for children to go through the various stages of childhood and adolescence. We know this because we've all done it and no matter how happy your own childhood, looking back is likely to remind you of some unhappy, uncomfortable or downright embarrassing moments too.

With all the changes and new challenges on the journey from childhood to adulthood, parents, educators and carers often wonder how best to build confidence in their children. 

True inner confidence is not about saying how great you are, it is about believing it. Parents often worry that their quiet child lacks confidence, yet some of the most confident children are also fairly quiet, loud is not confident. Likewise many believe telling a child they are great will build their confidence - this is not true.

If you want to debunk the myths of raising confident children and find out what you can do that will really make a difference, then our workshops are for you!

Find out more about confidence and how to raise confident boys and girls at our workshops taking place in Edinburgh and Glasgow this spring.






Thursday, 19 February 2015

Chinese New Year - embrace the future!

Today we celebrate Chinese New Year - the most important event in the Chinese calendar.

In common with 1 January, this is a time when families will celebrate and embrace the coming year. Chinese families may buy each other presents, get a new haircut, or clean their homes.

Cleaning the home at Chinese New Year is a symbolic activity, which is all about clearing away bad fortune and making way for good fortune.

Chinese New Year is considered a spring event and in this respect has much in common with the UK tradition of spring cleaning.

While spring cleaning usually focuses on cleaning the home, it is highly beneficial to apply the same sentiment to our lives in more general terms.

Read our article with tips on spring cleaning your life >

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Mindfulness for enhanced wellbeing

You've probably heard much talk in the media about mindfulness and how it can be beneficial for a whole range of issues, but what is mindfulness and how does it work?

What is ‘mindfulness’?

Mindfulness has its roots in Eastern meditation practices and it was first introduced into modern health care by Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn. It can be defined as paying attention to our experience in the present moment, to what is going on in our mind, body and day-to-day life, in a non-judgemental or accepting way (Kabat-Zinn, 1990).

How can mindfulness help?

Our minds are constantly thinking and imagining. We often get caught up in these thoughts and place too much weight on them, which can have a knock-on effect on our mood and subsequent behaviour. However, despite the significant effect these thoughts can have on our feelings and behaviour, they are simply creations of our mind - not reality. 

Mindfulness can help by making us more aware of the mind's processes and, with practice, we can learn to let our thoughts come and go without much consideration.  This frees us from the constant worries, thoughts of the past, or plans for the future. 

An exercise in mindfulness

There are many exercises and techniques for practising mindfulness. Try the exercise below and note how it makes you feel afterwards. 

Exercise: Breathing to connect - Sit or lie comfortably with your eyes closed. For the next six minutes connect with your breathing. Notice the gentle rise and fall of your rib cage and follow the air in and out of your lungs. Let any thoughts and feelings come and go, and each time you notice that your attention has wandered, gently refocus (you’ll need to do this again and again… and again). For the next three minutes expand your awareness so that you’re aware of your body and feelings as well as your breath. For the final minute open your eyes and connect with the room around you, as well as with your body, your feelings, and your breathing (Harris, 2007).

Outcomes

With practice, mindfulness can enhance your wellbeing in the long term by reducing your stress levels and providing inner strength and resources. Indeed studies have shown that the brain actually changes with mindfulness practice.

Further information





Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Don't give up on your wellbeing

We've reached the third week of January and by now have had weeks to work on our New Year's resolutions, so why are we starting to lose momentum?

Well according to research evidence, we are most likely to have a New Year's resolution wobble during the third week of January. Our enthusiasm can keep us going until now, but then the hard work of keeping going kicks in.

According to researcher Phillipa Lally and her colleagues, the average number of days it takes us to form a new habit is 66 days (European Journal of Social Psychology, 2009). That means, if we're really serious about what we want to achieve, we need to persevere.

After about 66 days, the behaviour should have become automatic, which means we shouldn't have to try and remember to do it any more and that makes life a lot easier. That's because the pathways in the brain actually change when we keep doing the same behaviour over and over again.

If your New Year's resolution was to reduce your stress, improve your wellbeing or learn a new skill, our wellbeing programme may be able to help. We have a wide range of courses, workshops, tasters and webinars taking place at locations throughout Scotland.

With their focus on wellbeing-related issues, they may be the boost you need to make a difference to yourself and those around you for 2015 and beyond.

Check out what's on offer at http://bit.ly/1ATlbW9