Why self improvement is essential

 

self improvement

Why self improvement is essential

I feel really good when I have done something that improves how  I see myself. Whether that is something I have actively engaged in like doing exercise or whether it is learning from a past behaviour. Self improvement takes many forms and here is why I believe self improvement is essential for our mental and emotional well being:

Improves self esteem and confidence

When we look back and see how we have conquered a fear or improved a skill, it can feel very satisfying and give our confidence a boost. Self improvement doesn’t have to consist of a massive leap, it can also be tiny increments in the right direction.

Adds a sense of purpose

Inbetween unloading and restacking the dishwasher and visiting the grocery store for the umpteenth time, life can seem unfulfilling when it is filled with day to day repetitive chores. It is at these times that I console myself with the goals I have in place that over-arch the menial daily tasks. Currently I am completing a University course and that helps me to feel I am making progress even if it is slow and not immediately redeemable. Goals are good and promote self improvement and keep you sane when life seems stagnant.

Raises endorphins

The thrill of accomplishment releases feel-good hormones known as endorphins. Self improvement is one way to achieve a natural high – whether it’s through positive affirmations or through an exercise programme. Happiness comes from progress, no matter how small.

Promotes contentment

As long as you don’t become fanatical about self improvement and then beat yourself up when you don’t meet certain expected achievements, self improvement can lead to a feeling of contentment. A sense that your life isn’t being wasted and that you are using your time doing something that is personally important to you. Inactivity and stagnation is more likely to lead to depression.

Keeps us engaged in life

The urge to improve oneself, no matter what it is, leads us to feeling alive and connected with the world around us. Withdrawal and disconnection can often lead to passivity and self neglect.

What do you want to improve in yourself? Learn a new language, give up a bad habit or re-assess a life choice…whatever it is, write it down and find ways to try make it a reality. It really is one of the best ways to feel pleased with yourself.

Mandy X

Why you need to stop worrying

 

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Why you need to stop worrying

Worry seems to be an inherent part of life. When I worked at the probation service, we had a questionnaire that every new client had to complete. One of the questions was “I worry too much” and I never came across one person that did not answer “yes” to this question. So why is it that we worry so much? How does it help us? Worry can be helpful when we are faced with uncertain situations. However, some of us worry more than others about things that may never happen. Worriers tend to have an overriding sense that they cannot cope with problems and situations that are thrown at them-they underestimate their abilities. Excessively worrying can impact upon our ability to function and cause us great distress.

I have found that most of my clients worry over things they cannot control or over the future-the future has yet to arrive and we never know what will happen. People worry to reduce the risk of something bad happening or because they need to achieve certainty for their acts or because they cannot tolerate uncertainty.

Worry is not a predictor of outcome-this is an important fact to remember. Here are a list of unhelpful behaviours that lead from too much worrying:

1) seeking reassurance for decisions

2) trying to push upsetting ideas out of your mind

3) seeking out excessive amounts of information before making a choice

4) avoiding certain types of information that triggers worry

5) putting off making decisions

6) overanalysing problems

7) making lists as a substitute for actions

If you find that your worrying too much it might be worth scheduling in “worried time”. Give yourself 30 minutes during the day to worry and try to come up with solutions. When you catch yourself worrying outside of this worry time, try to keep busy and distract yourself. This enables us to divide worry time to healthy worrying whilst not allowing ourselves to worry about unrealistic things.

Another useful approach is to place a rubber band around your wrist. When you find your worry all thoughts are repetitive and non-productive, ping the rubber band and shout “stop”. Then either note the worry down and use your worry time to think about it or see if it is a worry that you can problem solve.

Problem solving

This involves dealing with real worry. Define the problem and think of as many solutions as possible, no matter how ridiculous they seem. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each solution. She is a solution to implement and plan how you are going to do this. Take action and then review how it went. Were there any problems? Was it the right solution? What did you learn?

My favourite quote on worrying is: “worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Worrying is only effective if you are using the time to problem solve. “What if” worrying is wasted energy as none of us can predict the future. Many falsely believe that worrying will keep them safe and this is not true.

Too much worrying can put the body into a state of anxiety where we experience “fight/flight/freeze” symptoms.

Learn to work manage worry by implementing specific times to focus on your problems (worry time). Worrying takes you away from being present in your life-you are there physically but mentally you have put yourself into a “prison”.

Learn to distract yourself from inane thoughts. There is a theory that we have something like 80,000 thoughts a day and only 5 to 10% of those thoughts are useful and productive. Learn to ignore your thinking never confuse thoughts with facts.

Mandy X

It’s your life

 

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It’s your life

We all care far too much about what other people think of us. I would like to think that after all my years of training and working as a mental health professional that I would be a lot better at following my own inner wisdom. I do however still catch myself worrying about what other people think. It seems that it is an inevitable part of life but it is not something that we cannot challenge and learn to minimise in our lives. When I catch myself altering my behaviour and not doing what I want to do because of what others might think, it leads to self-doubt and indecisiveness. I also see it in my clients-many of whom experience incredible stress and anxiety due to the forceful opinions of family and friends.

What tends to happen is that we feel judged, and family members especially, who know us well, tend to be especially effective at belittling us and making us feel “less than”. Family members can be adept at knowing our insecurities and playing upon these fears.

The trick to counteracting the judgements of others is to learn how to care less and to build a strong inner core for yourself. This entails possessing a strong identity, having clear goals and purpose and above all accepting yourself for who you are. The more we believe in ourselves and like ourselves the less likely we are to be persuaded by others. Humans are social creatures and it is normal and natural to seek advice and support from other people. It is when the influence of other people diminishes us that it is unhealthy. Learn to identify when this is happening-figure out who the toxic people are in your life. Often when we have been in the company of toxic people, we come away feeling exhausted, confused and drained.

Here are some tips on feeling stronger within yourself. This can help you to live a life more in line with your own values and priorities-remember that it’s your life. You are the one that has to live it every day, you know yourself better than anybody else does (even if they pretend to know you better than you know yourself) and you owe it to yourself to live the life that you want, not the life that others want for you.

1) Look at the source

Whenever you’re criticised or judged by someone else, make sure that you study the person making the comments. Are they perfect? Do they have their lives completely together? Are they happy? In all likelihood you will find that they are just as flawed as the rest of us. One thing that they will probably be very good at is judging others as well as foisting their opinions on others. Critical people often use deflection or projection as a way to focus attention away from themselves. Some people believe that attack is the best form of defence.

One of my favourite quotes is by Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. Remember this quote it will come in handy.

2) Trust your instincts

we all have in the wisdom and sadly as we become adults this powerful in a resource becomes diluted. This is due to social conditioning, the pressure to conform, the pressure to please and needs to feel loved and accepted by others. We are taught as children to change our behaviour in order to be socially acceptable. Part of this process involves knocking down our inner desires and replacing them with ones that others deem more acceptable. This process knocks our confidence and promotes low self-esteem, lack of self belief and a load of self-doubt. Part of developing yourself as a strong and connected human involves reconnecting with your essential self. Your essential self is the person that you were naturally meant to become. Your social self is the adult that you grow to become that fits in and plays by the rules. Naturally we all have to abide by certain rules of the world would be chaos at this process can damage the delicate ones amongst us who begin to lose their own sense of identity. Make a list of the things that you enjoyed doing as child, the things that you are good at and are still good at. Notice your natural inclinations-do you enjoy company would you prefer being alone? Do you value money, people, peace and quiet…? Reconnecting with your true self is an integral part of building your confidence. This will lead you to feeling stronger about where you are going and what you want to do with your life even in the face of critical family members and friends.

3) Nurture your self belief

Remember that no one has all the answers. Your ideas and opinions about the board are just as valid as anyone else’s. Focus on all the times in your life that you have surprised yourself in a positive way. I was not very good at maths at school and came to believe that I was just useless when it came to numbers. Then in my early years of working I had to attend an airline fares course with the mathematical equations were incredibly complex. I had no one to help me as I was staying in a hotel away from home and decided that it was completely up to me to pass this course I spent every night in the hotel reading and going back over the day’s work. At the end of the course, I ended up with one of the highest scores in class. I was absolutely amazed. All that time I had spent with the self-limiting belief that I was useless at maths was not entirely correct. Self belief is a dynamic concept as it cannot always be at 100%. But we can constantly work at challenging our negative thoughts about ourselves. Who says that your way isn’t the right way? Where is it written that you are doing things wrong? Then to live your life with conviction and even if you make mistakes along the way, at least you are trying and hopefully learning from your mistakes.

4) Stop being a people pleaser

We all have it in us to want to please others. When that need to please others comes before our own self-worth it is unhealthy. It is the facts that you will never be able to please everybody so you may as well start learning to please yourself. There will always be two groups out there, no matter what you do. There will be those that support you and those that disagree with you. Accept it and get on with your life. The more you try to please others the more you send yourself a message that you are not worthy on some levels. That message can be different for each of us. Learn to identify why you want to please someone else. Are you doing it for the sheer joy of it are you doing its two-game validation or approval? Doing it for the sheer joy healthy, doing it for approval can lead you into problems.

5) Create goals and have purpose in life

When we have an idea of where we’re going and what we want in life, especially when those goals are as specific as possible (SMART goals) it can help us stay on course in the face of criticism and disapproval. When we have set goals for ourselves on meaningful and in line with our values, we have a sense of purpose to carry us through even when the going gets tough.

No one has the right to tell you how to live your life and you need to regularly remind yourself that you often know what is best for you. Have faith in your ideas and beliefs. Be assertive in the face of criticism. Being passive (your needs are more important than mine), as in not responding at all to toxic people will eat away at your self-esteem. Being aggressive (my needs are more important than yours) will cause unnecessary stress and conflict in your life. Get the balance right by adopting a “win-win” attitude. This approach looks at how both parties can get their needs met. Sometimes however, when toxicity levels are high, the best way forward is to limit your time with these people or possibly avoid them altogether.

No one wants to look back on their life and feel it was wasted. Use your time well by being true to yourself. Know where you want to be and who you are. It is good to get advice and to connect with others-we all need this must be wary of the toxic ones around you have their own agenda. Take your power back and own your life.

Mandy X

 

Family time and TV

 

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 Family time and TV

I saw a programme on TV recently discussing how psychologists were encouraging families to get their children to watch more television as it increases time together as a family. It also helps to get children off their computers, ipads and mobile phones and out of their bedrooms.

It struck me immediately how things have changed so much. When I was younger, parents were constantly trying to get their children to watch less television but now that technology has progressed, television has become the ‘lesser evil’. When I think about my own situation, I have a 17 year old son who spends a considerable amount of time in his bedroom and one of the few times I see him is when we watch television together. Otherwise, he is in his room playing games online or talking to friends via his computer. There are so ,many more reasons to stay in your bedroom now than there were 20- 30 years ago.

We can either resist these technological advancements and the ensuing altered behaviour and become exhausted or we can learn to work with it and try balance our lives more realistically.

Mandy X

 

40 Truths about life

 

 

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40 Truths about life

 Here are some thoughtful things  about life, the world, and its inhabitants that I have learned since my time here…

  1. You can’t change others, especially if it’s not a priority for them

2. Life is a series of ups and down – accept it and stop resisting the down times -it’s normal. We all experience them,

3. Stop worrying about what others think of you – they are more worried about what you think of them.

4. Children are born open minded and honest and we teach them not to be.

5. You alone are responsible for where you are in life. Stop blaming and get stuck in with solutions.

6. Live in the moment – right here, right now you are most probably fine and safe.

7. If you don’t work on improving your self belief you will miss out on many opportunities in life and never fully know your true potential.

8. Managing your negative and self limiting thinking will make you more mentally strong and resilient.

9. No one has all the answers…no one.

10. Every person, no matter their status/background has something to teach you.

11. Everyone has experienced heartbreak, failure and rejection.

12. A smile is free and can brighten someone’s day more than you’ll ever know.

13. People often make up a lot of stuff and try to present themselves as better than they are.

14. Everyone has self doubt.

15. Everyone goes through phases of self loathing.

16. Guilt is a wasted emotion, serves no purpose and solves nothing.

17. We are forgetting what is important, moving further away from the right priorities. Keep on track.

18. Putting things off just adds guilt and makes the task harder and more daunting. Just do it.

19. What we see of others is never the full picture. Don’t be taken in – believing you are inferior or inadequate. (see number 13).

20. Playing it safe will lead to a life full of regret, possibly with a body too old to do anything about it. Just do it…

21. Those that have the courage to be themselves and live with absolute integrity are a rare find.

22. Be happy being single before you get into a relationship.

23. Don’t live with too much clutter – it clogs up creative space in your mind and adds stress.

24.Happiness is something that you create for yourself within yourself.

25. Thoughts lead to feelings which lead to behaviour. Choose your thoughts and beliefs wisely.

26. Very few people really enjoy/enjoyed school.

27. Holding a grudge allows the other person to continue to hold power over you. Let it go.

28. Life is fatal, don’t waste time – express your love, wear your favourite things…make the most of every day.

29. People worry too much. Anticipation is worse than the actual event 95% of the time.

30. People tune out from their inner wisdom and intuition as time goes by. Learn to trust yourself more.

31. Self awareness is the key to self improvement.

32. Toxic people sometimes need to be removed from our lives for our own sanity and emotional well being.

33. You can’t please everyone all the time, so learn to be yourself and please yourself more.

34. Stop indiscriminate people pleasing – it’s ‘psychological rape’ and leaves you feeling diminished.

35. Learn to make decisions on your own without second guessing yourself. Even if the decision turns out to be a flop – you will learn how to deal with it. This all leads to more confidence.

36. People and experiences bring more happiness than material possessions in the long run.

37. If you don’t like someone, it may just be that you need to get to know them better.

38. A lot of stress is generated by the discrepancy between how we think life will be and how it actually is.

39. Having a good sense of humour can act as a protective buffer from life at times.

40. Embrace change, see it as an adventure as it will be a constant in life.

Mandy X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Habits

 

life habits

 

 

 

 

 

Life Habits

I have recently been a guest on another podcast series with my friend and colleague – Karel Vredenburg.

Life Habits podcasts are available free on itunes and offer fantastic advice on how to stay sane in a crazy world.

 

Here is the link:

 

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/life-habits/id280971858?mt=2

 

The latest podcast #94 was completed this weekend with Karel and covers unhelpful thinking styles.

Mandy X

Karel Vredenburg: Canadian Psychologist

Karel-headshot

Are you a hypochondriac?

 

doctor photo

Are you a hypochondriac?

I’ve become more of a hypochondriac in the last few years. I guess it makes sense after all the various health scares I have encountered. Despite this, I know that it is still very important for me to keep my health anxiety in check and not let it dominate my life. The media doesn’t help either. Every day there is some new message about what we shouldn’t be doing or shouldn’t be eating. So I reckon the best way to be, is to enjoy life and moderation and forget all the doom mongering.

I have recently been diagnosed with a severe dog allergy and this has caused asthma attacks over the last few months. There have also been times when I have been out and about, like waiting in a long queue at the post office when I have had a coughing fit. Always embarrassing especially when people give you dirty looks, believing you are contaminating the air.

What this has done for me, is that I have developed quite a thick skin-so in some ways my health issues have served me well.

So how do you know if you are a hypochondriac? Hypochondriasis often occurs in people who are already experiencing anxiety. The best way to deal with hypochondriasis is to test out your beliefs. It is a term that mental health professionals call “exposure”. The more we test out our theories, the more we realise that what we fear will not come true.

Do you worry a lot? Do you engage in behaviour that maintains the problem-such as excessive health monitoring and googling all sorts of symptoms on the Internet? More we monitor the more we stay focused on our health. Do the regular health checks and learn to detach from every small anomaly in your body. The body has amazing healing properties and when our minds are focused on health and functioning well, our bodies tend to follow.

Trust the things are unfolding as they are meant to.

Mandy X

 

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

 

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Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder involves a preoccupation with perceived flaws or defects in an individual’s physical appearance are not observable or are very minor. A person with body dysmorphic disorder is extremely body conscious their behaviour may involve repeatedly checking in the mirror, excessive grooming, skin picking all reassurances seeking in order to feel comfort regarding their appearance concerns.

People who have body dysmorphic disorder tend to have low self-esteem as well. Some people become obsessive about cosmetic surgery and are unable to distinguish when their behaviour becomes unhealthy. They never feel at ease in their own bodies and find it difficult to accept themselves.

Body dysmorphic disorder can limits those suffering from it when it comes to finding a partner as they tend to overestimate the importance of their appearance in social acceptance. At the same time they often underestimate their positive attributes. Any negative characteristics are magnified.

Cognitive behavioural therapy works really well when it comes to treating body dysmorphic disorder. CBT helps to challenge faulty assumptions and replace negative thoughts with more healthy thinking. Body dysmorphic disorder is quite common and seems to be a growing phenomenon.

Do not become disheartened – there is always hope. Seek professional help if the problem persists.

Mandy X