Re-framing your thoughts for mental well-being

We have around 60,000 thoughts a day and these are made up of internal conversations – a dialogue about what we like, what we don’t like, judgement of ourselves and others, what has happened, what’s about to happen. As a neuro-linguistic practitioner, this is what I focus on to facilitate lasting change to thought patterns and habits that can be quite destructive in their outcome; depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, relationship issues, chronic illness to name but a few.

This is because our thoughts shape our behaviours. We are influenced by that inner voice and considering that 10% is what happens to us and 90% is how we process this and choose to respond there is ample opportunity to develop strategies that turn out to be unhelpful.

So how do we change this, if we recognise that our thought processes are destructive and limiting us from having a happy, joyful, successful, peaceful life? Recognition and acceptance is the first step; congratulations if you have achieved this as many people never will. This is the pivotal and empowering place of consciously being able to make a change.

Begin to start to take these easy steps to change the way you think.

Like all thoughts, when you practice them they become easier and then habitual so start by each morning write down 5 things you are looking forward to or are great about your day, these can be really simple things.

This allows you to look forward to things. By doing this it also begins to refocus your thought processes to look for the good things. When practiced this becomes progressively easier as each day you will start to notice that you are looking for those things that are great each day.

Then, before you go to bed, write down 5 things that were great about the day, include those things that you achieved and felt good about. This allows you to sleep thinking positively about the day that you have just had. This alters your neuro-pathways; our minds are wired to make those things we do most often easier to access.

5 Steps to Self-care

It’s important to show compassion and kindness for others, but how often do we treat ourselves with that same level of compassion or kindness? That inner voice will probably be the most important voice you will ever hear and it needs to be nice!

For some people, adding self-care into a daily regimen can seem inconvenient, or time consuming. You may say “I don’t have time for that,” or “I have too many other things to do.” But repeatedly putting the needs of others before our own can lead to a lack of “me time,” which can, in turn, create stress and resentment and prevent us from being our best selves.

Research has shown that adding self-care into one’s daily routine reduces stress, decreases the chance of mental and physical ailment, increases productivity, and inspires feelings of happiness. By giving ourselves a daily dose of compassion and kindness, we’re able to approach our work and relationships with a clear, happy mind, thus allowing the cycle of positivity to continue.

But how do you do that when it feels alien to do so? Where do you start?

Here are a few steps to help you on your way, and remember, like any new skill it takes regular practice to create a new habit.

Step 1: Understand what self-care is. 
If you don’t understand what self-care is, then there’s no way for you to develop a new habit. Self-care is any activity that is done with the sole intention to take care of our own mental, emotional and physical health. Self-care is a way of giving back to ourselves in the form of doing activities that fuel us and that are just for us and not for anybody else.

Step 2: Assess what your self-care already is. 
Now it’s time to evaluate your self-care at the current moment, you can use my Coaching Wheel to assist you attached below. Create a self-care assessment to highlight the positive things that you are already doing for yourself, along with any areas where you may be lacking. Start by choosing two of the eight dimensions of wellbeing then as you become more competent you can look further into these: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual.

Step 3: Find where you could do better and create a self-care plan.
After evaluating your current self-care, did you notice any aspects where you could do better? Maybe you are doing great when it comes to your occupational wellbeing — your career is great, and maybe your financial e.g. paying your bills on time, etc. — but you seem to be forgoing your physical wellbeing.

Create your self-care plan by setting goals to improve in these areas.

“Set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely that we can accomplish.

Step 4: Hold yourself accountable to these goals. 
Once you’ve set your plan in motion, the next step is to hold yourself accountable by measuring your success. For example: You can buy a physical calendar and give yourself a gold star every night you manage to sleep seven hours or set yourself a goal to meditate/exercise for a set duration per day/week.

Then, pick a date in the future and say, “I’m going to sleep seven hours a day until X date.” Try it out for 7 days, 30 days, 60 days, or whatever you think is achievable for yourself.

Step 5: Decide a follow up date at a future point and stick to it.
When that date arrives, it’s time to revisit your goal. This is the most important step in your self-care plan because this is where you can see whether you have achieved what you set out to do, or if you need to make some adjustments. It’s a time for reflection.

 

 

Ask yourself, “How am I doing?” If your goal of sleeping seven hours each night has become a habit, you can set a new plan in place to reach a different goal.

Maybe you saw a need for improvement in your social wellbeing dimension when you took your self-care assessment, and you want to now focus on setting up a coffee date with a friend every week.

“The idea is that your self-care plan is always evolving, it’s ever changing, and sometimes we try a self-care plan and it doesn’t work for us — and that’s OK — but we find something else that does. If your plan hasn’t gone accordingly then ask what has got in the way and make the necessary adjustments. There is no such thing as failure, only feedback.

Click here for the Coaching Wheel

 

It's all about Desire

Sometimes we set ourselves goals, tasks, targets and wonder why we don’t achieve them.

There are many areas where these goals are set, lifestyle, weight, fitness, financial, work, the list is endless but why don’t we always achieve them when they have been set in good faith?

Setting aside those goals that are just not achievable or something tangible has got in the way – often it is about the desire to step out of our comfort zone – be prepared to do what we haven’t done before in order to achieve that goal.

What does desire mean? It means we have a strong feeling or want to door have something.

But is that enough?

If your goal is to lose weight then the desire to do so has to out weigh the steps required to lose that weight. If the goal is to change your job then the desire has to be sufficient enough to inspire you to take action to make a change. If the goal is fitness then the desire to act and exercise has to be more potent than the desire to be inactive – something has to drive you off the sofa!

Why is it all about desire and not willpower?

Willpower by definition is control exerted to do something or restrain impulses. Our social understanding of the word transcribes as an external influence or a denying ourselves something – doesn’t sound great, does it?

Desire, however, is emotionally driven from within, it is not about doing but more about feeling. This makes it much more powerful as it is driven towards something (the goal) rather than willpower, which is denying us something – sounds much better doesn’t it?

How to Redress Depression

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start; when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, the wood for the trees, then end to all of this.

Begin to start to take these easy steps to change the way you think.

Like all thoughts, when you practice them they become easier and then habitual so start by each morning write down 5 things you are looking forward to or are great about your day, these can be really simple things.

This allows you to look forward to things. By doing this it also begins to refocus your thought processes to look for the good things, essentially depression comes with the ability to focus on those things that go wrong.

When practiced this becomes progressively easier as each day you will start to notice that you are looking for those things that are great each day.

Then, before you go to bed, write down 5 things that were great about the day. This allows you to begin rest and repair thinking positively about the day that you have just had. This alters your neuro-pathways and our minds are wired to make those things we do most often easier to access.

Depression is often hopelessness about the future and regrets about the past and if we do this often enough it is what our minds start looking for. To start to redress depression remember to THINK:

What am I looking forward to today?

What was great about today?

This alters the neuro-pathways to start looking for the great or positive things.

The Dis-empowerment of always

You know that person that uses the word always in association with a negative sentence? You know that person that says

‘bad stuff always happens to me’

‘something always goes wrong, no matter how hard I try’

 ‘I always feel like this’

Did you know that using this seemingly harmless word (for those that are interested it’s called a universal quantifier) it creates a sense of permanency.

In reality, bad stuff doesn’t always happen and neither does everything always go wrong, if you are one of those people and were to take stock of the actual events in your life then you’ll probably see that you have ups and downs the same as the rest of us. 

By saying always you’re entering into a realm of altered reality – a hallucination of a not very nice kind if you’d prefer to see it this way. A version of reality where your life sucks and there is no happiness, effort is futile, trying to enjoy something is pointless as its bound to go wrong soon – sound familiar?

What you say, both out loud and to yourself matters – it matters hugely - we already know that our own voice creates and moulds our behaviours. Spend some time just checking out your use of these kinds of words.

Universal Quantifiers are generalisations that exaggerate the truth and if used in conjunction with a negative can give the illusion that life is no good, the opposite is also true.

all, every, always, never, any, everybody, nobody, no one

By making little changes, when we notice ourselves using these kinds of words with negative connotations, we can alter our own version of reality – after all that is what life is – our own experiences recorded as an entity in its own right and rarely shared by others (notice I didn’t use never). Changing those statements made above to:

‘sometimes, bad stuff happens to me’

‘things sometimes go wrong, no matter how hard I try’

 ‘I sometimes feel like this’

Just by changing the sentence slightly the whole feel of it changes and opens our minds to a different version of reality where sometimes things go wrong, sometimes they don’t, which means sometimes they go well. Sometimes I feel like this (depressed for example) which then opens our minds to the reality that sometimes we don’t feel depressed therefore how do we feel?

You never know, you may end up using this to your advantage:

I always have a good laugh, every day.

If I feel down, I always bounce back.

When things go wrong, I always try and put them right.

You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to make small changes and benefit from big positive shifts in your mental wellbeing. Change the disempowerment of always into the empowerment of always.

5 Reasons Why You’re Not Sticking to Those New Goals and 5 Questions to Ask For Success

This time of year, many people make New Year's resolutions or goals for the coming year. You may have decided on Veganuary, Dry January, RED (run every day) or a whole host of others. So why, come the 1st or 2nd week of your resolution, does it all fall by the wayside? Research shows that many get caught up with expectations, especially at the beginning of the New Year, others fall into the media trap – if you listen carefully adverts start persuading us that this is what we should be doing. If yours have fallen apart already then here are 5 reasons why:

You never actually wanted to do it in the first place.

And that’s ok – recognise that it was never your goal, it doesn’t matter if a friend or partner coerced you and you felt you should or ought to – those 2 words should and ought; are a sign that you don’t actually want to – those words lend themselves to a sense of obligation rather than a personal desire.

Re-evaluate the goal or resolution and decide if you actually do want to do it, if not replace it with something you do, that spark interest or excitement – or bin it!

It’s not reasonable

What does this mean – well it simply means that it is not reasonable to achieve this goal. The goal may be too big and need breaking down into smaller steps. You’ve gone vegan but really you adore meat and cannot possibly live a life without. (if you’re saying the same thing about alcohol then that’s something completely different 😊). You’ve signed up to a weekly class that starts at 7pm but you don’t get home until 6.30, starving hungry and it just isn’t going to happen. Whatever the reason for it not being reasonable, it means that you are unlikely to stick to the tasks needed to achieve the goal, therefore, you’re going to fail.

It’s not ecological

Simplistically this refers to it fitting in with your current lifestyle. It means that you have not considered its impact on those around you, your friends, family, work. It’s no good saying you’re going to run a marathon in 3 months’ time but you are already committed to other projects which result in there not being enough time to train or by training, you spend no time with your family and they are left resentful.

It’s not achievable

Is the goal you have decided on costly and you can’t afford it? Is it time-consuming and you don’t reasonably have the time? Is it not realistically achievable in the first place? Does it rely on others?

There are many goals that people set that are simply not achievable – most commonly around weight loss, muscle gain, fitness levels and not to be forgotten – those goals that are reliant on other people’s input – you are accountable for your own actions but cannot guarantee those of others.

You’ve set yourself up to fail

Have you set the bar too high? Are you a perfectionist striving for what, to others, is unrealistic?

Over time these kinds of goals will eat away at your self-esteem, lending you to beginning to believe that you are no good, that you fail. An unhealthy and problematic way of setting yourself goals. If this is you then ask yourself, would (then pick a person you respect or hold in esteem) set themselves this goal and consider themselves able to achieve it?

 

Before you set the next goal use this framework to give you the best chance of success

What do I really want to achieve?

To be answered with positives and be specific.

When do I want to achieve it by?

Setting timescales gives you focus, omitting this allows goals to be ‘when I get around to it’.

What’s the first step?

Breaking down goals into steps makes them even more achievable, congratulate yourself on achieving those steps.

Is it reasonable?

Skydiving with osteoporosis may not be a reasonable goal. Learning to fly a plane is costly, initially and to continue, can you afford it?

Is it ecological?

Will I end up divorced, unemployed or void of friendships if I do this? Does it fit your life well enough, with acceptable adjustments?

Why you should look at yourself as a complete ecosystem, not just deal with the symptoms individually.

I spent a lot of my life being unhealthy in mind and body and not very well at being. I can recall way back to my teens suffering digestive issues, mental health problems like anxiety and depression and these continued through the decades. I thought everyone was like me – worrying about future events that hadn’t and may not happen. Berating myself over past events that I could do nothing about. Having unrealistic expectations of myself and analysing absolutely everything. I thought everyone experienced these things as well as the unrest in my body. Bloating and pain (commonly known as IBS) widespread pain in my back, mainly my neck, shoulders and lower back; which was met with repeated visits to Osteopaths, Chiropractors and Physiotherapists periodically throughout the decades. These would often help for a while but nothing ever lasted for long. In 2009 I hit rock bottom in both body and mind. My body was screaming in pain, my mind overwhelmed in out of control thoughts and can say I was at breaking point. My family were supportive, I was not alone and plenty to be thankful yet here I was unable to function.

I learned to take back control over my mind and body, influence my well-being both physically and mentally and am a healthy happy and content person. It’s taken work, there is no quick fix but what I have learned is that there is no ‘one size fits all’; this interests me hugely as the mind and body is so inexplicably unique and complex we vastly underestimate the effects of our thoughts and what we fuel ourselves with, our environment and our experiences. These all shape our being.

My journey to wellness started with understanding the detrimental effect my thoughts were having on me. Using NLP based interventions and training programmes I embarked on a journey to turning my life around. From being reliant on several strong medications I no longer take any and haven’t done for years. From being unable to perform the easiest tasks without becoming exhausted, I now run half marathons (and I’m also a proud 1% who has run a marathon in their life). From being overwhelmed by life I now help others reach their own health and happiness.

Through my journey, I have met and exchanged stories with many people and the most important lesson I have learned is that what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another, this is why the NHS is struggling. To achieve wellness is a personal journey and can be facilitated by many routes, both medicine and holistic. Find what works for you. For me it was the following:

The Lightning Process at https://thelightningprocess.com. Gave me my life back. I was so motivated from doing this training course that I gave myself a goal to become a practitioner, achieved this year.

Joe Wicks The Body Coach at https://www.thebodycoach.com. Moved me from being fit but flabby to fit and strong.

My Body Fabulous at https://mybodyfabulous.co.uk . Gave me the last missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle and the answers that seemed to elude me around my digestive system.

 

It's dark in the mornings and that makes me SAD

The above statement is a very powerful one, especially on a Monday morning, but why? Did you also know that it is also a disempowering and destructive statement?  This morning I woke up and did actually, momentarily, get grumpy because it was dark when my alarm went off. Why do we do this? 

There is no short answer to why we react this way to the Autumn nights drawing in, it's a mixture of chemical releases in the brain, our own preferences and emotions. The reason the statement is so powerful is that it is disempowering, what does that mean? We have no control over the weather, the seasons and yet we respond to them negatively. The nights draw in every Autumn regardless of what we want, mother nature does her own thing yet we still grump about it. The weather is one of those things that we truly have no influence or control over therefore allowing ourselves to be negative is only going to be detrimental to our mental wellbeing. However, we are the only ones that can influence our own thoughts, responses and emotions - we choose to respond to the inevitable in this way and that opens up the following statement of 'if we can choose to respond negatively then by default we can also choose to respond positively'.

The reason that this statement is destructive is that by saying that the season (nights getting longer and days getting shorter) makes me SAD we put ourselves in a passive, negative place. We limit ourselves. We then believe that it is something outside of us that is making us SAD. We believe that our mental wellbeing is linked to the seasons or even the weather - who has ever got cross because they've arranged a barbecue and it's rained! The seasons and the weather will continue to do what they do. You can't influence that. You can't change that. 

But what you can change is your response. I very quickly had a quiet word with myself as we all always have conversations with ourselves and I made a choice. I made a choice to enjoy the dawn arriving, the birds singing and I will, if it is still raining, find the time to enjoy the sound of the rain. I will also remember to retrieve the jumper I left on the clothes line outside last night as it is now wetter than it was when I out it out there :-) 

How To Be Your Own Best Coach

Our lives are made up of us telling ourselves stories, it’s not a sign of madness just what we all do all the time. We have thoughts about what may happen in the future, what has already happened and how you would like things to go. What we like, what we don’t – we judge ourselves and others.

If you said to your friends what you say to yourself – would you have any? Harsh but often true.

What makes you your own best coach is the quality of those conversations you have with yourself. Now just take a moment and ask yourself – those stories, thoughts, and conversations you have with yourself. Are they good quality, are they useful, are they taking you to the place you want to be.

If the answer is no to any of the above then you need to have a conversation with yourself about what needs to change.

Exercise. Grab a piece of paper and a pen

Question 1

What qualities make a great coach, think of someone you hold in esteem for their abilities to encourage and empower others.

Question 2

What would you like to hear right now from the most fabulous coach that ever existed? Think about those things that you really need to here right now.

Questions 3

What do you need to hear from your future wiser, self - right now? If you could transport yourself 5 years into the future what words of wisdom would your future wiser say to yourself right here and now?

The answers should be something that you would find yourself saying to your best friend, not necessarily fluffy, some of the words below may be a little alien to some of us, they are the words a coach would use so adopting them becomes self-empowering:

Compassionate

Encouraging

Honest

Trusting

Congruent

Kind

Genuine

Empowering

Using these questions result in some very honest feedback, you know yourself better than anybody else – your strengths and weaknesses and how you can sabotage your own success. It is often said that we are our own worst enemy but the good news is that you have more influence over yourself, your thoughts and your conversations than anybody else does and it is absolutely your choice to make a difference to your own outcomes.

Meditation and Mindfulness

What is meditation and mindfulness?

Explained very simply it is whatever allows you to be present and in the moment. For some this is listening to soothing music, some rock music. For some this is listening to apps designed to guide your wandering thoughts to the present moment. For others this is activities such as gardening, walking, running, sailing and much more.

Whatever it is for you, the important part is that you enjoy it, it is relaxing and it calms the busy thoughts so that you can enjoy just the here and now.

There are plenty of free resources on the internet to choose from, have a play, do something different as you never know the best may be out there waiting for you to find it.

Perfectionism is a most dreadful disposition

I'm actually serious about this one, as a former perfectionist, I know all too well the blight it has cast over my own life from a very early age and the seemingly constant disappointment it brought me. We, as humans, are not designed to be perfect, we are flawed in order to learn and grow, it's how we obtain the necessary skills to become functional adults, through failure as children.

Imagine a way of being that expects to do everything perfectly, first time, every time. How on earth is that humanly possible yet there are many people who do operate this way, you know those people who gain 97% in an exam and they are congratulated but their response is to say that they could have done better - not only de-valuing the compliment but also undermining themselves. We all know someone like this, it's not the same as striving for being a better you - that's different.

What happens to neurology when a perfectionist has this kind of self-talk (we all talk to ourselves and often it's not nice). What should happen is the happy hormones, endorphin, dopamine, serotonin, should be shaken into the most delicious cocktail and released into the body nurturing every cell allowing us to feel fantastic. What actually happens is that this release of feel good doesn't happen or is significantly dampened down. And even more relevant is if stress hormones, mainly cortisol (but it is also a cocktail but a toxic one in large doses) are released frequently, say prior to an exam, the brain considers the most frequently used state of being and adopts that one. Plain speaking this means that in the absence of any particular cocktail that is clear in its message the brain will opt for the most frequently used. In my experience, those people who are perfectionist love a toxic cocktail.

What's the antidote - well the first step is to recognise that you are potentially a perfectionist, then ask yourself if this way of being has been useful to you - absolutely there is a time and a place where perfectionism shines, but not for everyday; for turning the labels round on all your jars, studying or stressing to a point where you can no longer think straight, doing and redoing something over and over again because it's not quite right and never actually finishing it because it's not perfect when good would be good enough.

What do we know about well-being?

What do we know about well-being? The answer is, very little, compared to what is known about illness, dysfunction and disease. Scientific study and progress on the side of positive neurological functioning is woefully inadequate compared with the negative side of assessment, treatment and research.

What good are positive emotions and why do the medical profession care about whether people are feeling good? Historically, time and energy has been given to effectively treating the symptoms generated by negative emotions whilst the benefit of using positive emotion to resolve those symptons has been largely overlooked. But what if positive emotion could help to explain some of the problems negative emotions produce? Times are changing and perceptions are being altered.

When our positive emotions are in short supply – we become stuck in a rut and painfully predictable. But when our positive emotions are in ample supply – we feel lifted, resilient, and buoyant. They are our emotions; we do have a choice to continue doing negative or positive.

In short, we can improve our well-being both physically and neurologically by following some easy steps;

1.      Find meaning in everyday life through reflecting on experiences and finding the positive. View ordinary events with a positive value. Pursue and attain realistic goals

2.      Explore relaxation, meditation or being ‘present’ using audio, exercises or imagery.

3.      Make connections by reaching out to others, applying step 1.

4.      Engage in activities and hobbies that you enjoy and you find naturally motivating.

5.      Take care of yourself, eat a variety of food, sleep well – using step 2, and engage in regular physical activity.