Summer days, school holidays and happy children

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Summer is the ideal time to picnic with friends and let the children run free. Happy children are a joy to behold and bringing out the best in your children needn’t be hard work.

Allow your child to express their emotions, do not laugh, ridicule or humiliate them. Even if they are expressing emotions you find difficult to handle, do not withdraw or withhold your love. Ensure your child knows what you expect from him or her. Try not to send confusing and unclear messages. Remember, children are not mind readers. If you have a partner make sure that you are both singing from the same hymn sheet. Set clear rules and boundaries. We all like to know where we stand. Do not make idle threats. If you do impose sanctions, make sure you always carry them through, that way your child will know you mean business and they will learn to trust you.

Do not compete with your child or try to get one better over them. If you have broken up with the child’s other parent, do not say unkind, hurtful or critical things about them. No matter how unkind they may be, or how much you may be hurting. Fighting and point scoring can be a major source of anxiety to a child.

Sooner or later all children will express thoughts or emotions different from your own. Encourage them to be inquisitive and to explore new things and have experiences that you may never have experienced. This is how they learn. Your self esteem should not be linked to your child’s appearance, behaviour or how well they do academically. By all means, give praise for things well done, but do not punish or withhold love and approval if they do not do well.

When your children are misbehaving, remember they are not “bad” children. It is merely their behaviour that is “bad.” All behaviour means something. Step back and see if you can spot the meaning. Finally – Remember that children and adults have different needs and expectations. Children are not “mini grown-ups.” They want different things.

Until next time. Steve

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype Please contact us through our website @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

www.facebook.com/mgbhillclimbchallenge

Twitter @cbt4you

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                           Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                                       Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFelicidade_A_very_happy_boy.jpg

An Exciting Announcement

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Steve is thrilled to announce that he has been chosen to join a select number of intrepid classic car owners to bring the Firle hill climb back to life after a break of some 48 years. Thanks are due to the Bo-Peep Drivers Club who is putting on this special event in aid of the Chailey Heritage Foundation.

The Firle hill climb came into existence at the end of World War II due to lack of available motor racing circuits, which were then still being used by the military. The search was on for any suitable venue and as luck would have it, a small winding lane in Sussex was identified as the ideal place for a hill climb. The site is not actually at or in Firle but a little way along the road at Bo Peep Lane. The Bentley Drivers Club and later the British Automobile Racing Club went on to develop the hill climb into an increasingly popular event through the fifties and into the sixties. Alas, tragedy struck in 1967 following an unfortunate incident between some walkers and a car which left the road and collided with the unfortunate walkers. It was decided that the event was no longer manageable and so the last hill climb is recorded as taking place in September 1967.

On September 20th 2015, after a gap of some forty eight years, there will once again be the sight and sound of some fantastic automobiles climbing the hill at Bo Peep. There are too many to list all of them, but they include Alvis, Austin, Austin Healey, Bentley, Fiat, Ford, Jaguar, Lagonda, Lotus, MG, Morris, Reliant and Triumph.

 MG 001

Steve will be driving his MGB which he hopes to modify to full hill climb spec, albeit on a shoestring and he is busy budgeting for roll cage, seats, harness, etc. Prior to the charity event he will be taking his MG along to various events with the Bo Peep drivers club to publicise the hillclimb. Steve has a facebook site and would be delighted if you had time to visit www.facebook.com/mgbhillclimbchallenge 

Bo Peep Drivers club founder, Rob Bryant, said he was delighted to get a hill climb reinstated after getting permission to close Bo Peep Lane in Alciston, a village close to Firle Beacon, to host the event. He said: ‘A year ago I thought it would be a great place for a hill climb event and then discovered the history…The event is along the lines of a mini Goodwood with themed 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s dress, drivers’ lounge, a band and a charity auction’.

Funds raised will aid the Chailey Heritage Foundation, a school for children and young adults with a variety of complex disabilities. The following paragraph forms part of the vision statement that Chailey Heritage Foundation work to achieve.

“Every young person at Chailey Heritage School will be given every opportunity to make progress towards fulfilment. We will never, ever give up looking for ways to support our young people to make their own choices in life, and to achieve their own desired destinations.”

Until next time, Steve.

We would be delighted if you visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

www.facebook.com/mgbhillclimbchallenge

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                             Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                                 Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AJohn_Cobb_(motorist).jpg

Mindfulness – Learning from the breath

 

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Like everything else that requires practice, the development of mindfulness first involves learning some concepts, and some methods to practice. The methods are practiced over and over again, first only in very structured situations, eventually in all kinds of situations.Ultimately, the skills become reliable ways of responding with freedom, wisdom and kindness to a greater and greater range of human experience.

Bare attention – Attending to sensory experiences that arise with an object of attention, without distraction or thinking too much. For example, when attending to your breathing with bare attention, you just notice the sensations of breathing and nothing else. When this is occurring, many subtleties and nuances of breathing, and patterns in these, reveal themselves to you. Also, you are just noticing these sensations as they arise and pass away in the present moment – not thinking about them, not labelling them with language, not associating them with other sensations or patterns you may have experienced before.

With practice, bare attention can be applied to bodily and emotional responses, including those triggered by very painful or traumatic experiences. For example, a person might attend to the sensations in her chest, throat, and face that arise when someone raises their voice in anger and reminds her of a hurtful parent or step-parent. Focusing on emotions as bodily events while “dropping the story” of verbal thoughts, bare attending.
Labelling – Mentally applying a word or brief phrase to a particular content of experience.

Not all mindfulness meditation instructions include this practice, but many do. The idea is to help oneself simply notice something arising in your experience, without judgment, so that you can get back to observing the flow of experiences arising and passing away. This practice can also eliminate the control of particularly “sticky” thoughts and feelings over one’s attention. For example, one might use the labels “sadness” or “anger” when these emotions arise; or “planning,” “worrying,” or “remembering” when those common cognitive processes arise.

Acceptance – Accepting the reality of one’s current experience is particularly important when it comes to potentially intense negative emotional responses. Once such emotional responses have arisen in one’s current experience, neither mindlessly being carried away by them nor attempting to suppress them will be particularly helpful. Acceptance allows one to see them more clearly for what they are – unwanted and intense, but passing experiences – and choose how to respond to them, perhaps with acceptance and nothing more.

Non-reactivity – Responding to experiences, including emotions and impulses, without getting carried away by them or trying to suppress them. All organisms, including human beings, are conditioned to react automatically to most of the experiences they have. We grasp at what we want and like, and push away what we don’t want or like. Before we even know it, such conditioned responses to stimuli and emotions carry us away.

Mindfulness involves the skill of non-reactively observing split-second conditioned reactions, which provides the option of not acting out the entire chain reaction that would normally follow. This non-reactivity opens up space for new observations, reflections, learning, and freedom.

Curiosity – An attitude of interest in learning about the nature of one’s experience and mind. Through mindfulness, this quality of mind can be brought to a much greater range of experience than we ordinarily do. When it comes to experiences that we don’t want, including painful memories and emotions, we tend to just push them away and avoid them, again based on our conditioning. We tend to reserve curiosity for things and experiences that are new and at least somewhat positive. But with mindfulness, we can bring curiosity to the full range of our experience, and discover much that is new and enlightening.

Patience – Accepting a slow pace of change; bearing unwanted, difficult or painful experiences with calmness. Experiencing the breath over and over again, and repeatedly observing – with acceptance, non-reactivity, and curiosity – that one’s mind has wondered or been carried away in a chain reaction of conditioned thoughts and feelings, is a wonderful way to cultivate patience. And these experiences can translate to daily life, enabling us to become more patient with ourselves and others as we all continue to fall into habitual responses that increase our suffering.

Thoughts and feelings as events, not facts
We often respond to our thoughts and feelings as if they were facts or truths that “demand” or “justify” particular responses. However, it is also possible to understand and experience our thoughts and feelings as events that arise under certain conditions, and then pass away. This is true of all sensations, perceptions, feelings, memories, fantasies about the future, and other mental experiences.

Understanding and experiencing our thoughts and feelings in this way opens up some “space” around them. Instead of the thoughts and feelings having you, and carrying you away, you can experience yourself as having certain thoughts and feelings under certain conditions, and as having options about how you respond to them.

Attending to process vs. attending to content.
Most of the time, most of us are lost in the contents of what is running through our minds. Though fears, cravings and various emotions drive our thought processes, we tend to get lost in the specifics and details of our thoughts and memories. Mindfulness meditation teaches us how to observe the processes of our minds and how they work.

For example, when we are experiencing a pain in our body, or a painful memory, we tend to focus on the content of the pain experience and relate to it as something solid and unchanging. When that happens, the pain or memory is experienced the same way we always experience it, with the same predictable results. However, if we truly attend to the process by which sensations of pain or aspects of remembering arise and change from moment to moment, the experience tends to lose its grip over our awareness and become more tolerable and workable.

When we can attend to a painful memory as a process that arises and plays out in our mind, we notice how the images, thoughts, feelings and bodily experiences change from moment to moment, and that experience of remembering involves new learning and opportunities for healing. Repeatedly attending to the processes of one’s mind in daily meditation practice, one can become more mindful and more skilled at noticing the processes of experiences in daily life – and choosing not to get lost in the contents of experiences.

The transformative and healing power of this shift in how we attend to our experience really is amazing, though it does take practice and discipline. Most important, this is a skill that truly can only be experienced directly, and only hinted at with words and concepts like these.

Until next time, Steve

We would be delighted if you visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Steve Clifford Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                           Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.
This blog post is largely an abridged version of “Mindfulness and Kindness; inner sources of freedom and happiness,” by Jim Hopper, PhD – http://www.jimhopper.com [Accessed 18/02/15]

Image: By Michael Coghlan from Adelaide, Australia [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Restore your calm with Mindfulness Meditation

 

 

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If you thought meditation was just about shaven headed monks sitting cross legged with incense wafting about, you would be wrong. Sure, you can sit cross legged and burn incense if you wish, (I often do) but mindfulness meditation is more than this.

Mindfulness meditation was developed by Jon Kabut-Zinn in the late 1970’s. With its roots in the ancient art of meditation (as practised by shaven headed monks), he took it a step further, teaching people how to access their own internal resources for balance and healing through the cultivation of moment by moment awareness.

Being mindful is about being present in the moment, without judgement, in the here and now. You might think this is easy, but you would be wrong. To illustrate, try this. Sit with your eyes closed just focusing on the present moment. Just allow the thoughts to be there and just be aware of them. What do you notice? Well most probably you will find that your mind leaps continuously from thought to thought, from the comment somebody said earlier today, to what you need to buy at the shops. A constant mix of past and future thoughts, worries and concerns…it is no wonder most of us feel stressed.

Learning to let go of the past and not get caught up in the future can really help.

The key to mindfulness is to learn to simply watch the thoughts that drift in to your mind. Like clouds in the sky, acknowledge them without getting caught up or entering a dialogue with them, then let them pass away as you would clouds in the sky. Another way of looking at this is to imagine the thoughts were adverts on a radio between songs or on television between programmes. Just leave them to play without buying into them.

Mindfulness meditation does take regular practice to really master. But it is a whole lot easier than learning a musical instrument or learning how to dance.No chords to learn or partners needed. Just incense and the ability to sit cross legged, no seriously. Just a few minutes each day or when you have time and you will soon notice the benefits.

Mindfulness practice is really worthwhile and has many health benefits including: Lasting decreases in both physiological and psychological arousal. increased ability to relax, greater energy and enthusiasm for life, improved self esteem, improved relationships, more creative capacity to cope with stress and improved concentration.

Here is a good mindfulness technique to get you started. It is known as mindfulness breathing. Remember the aim of this exercise is to cultivate a state of calm, non-judgemental awareness. Simply allow thoughts and feelings to come and go, bringing your awareness back to the rise and fall of your tummy as breath comes in and out. Initially you may have to consciously bring your awareness back to the breath many times. This is fine, even those who very experienced at meditation might have days when they find letting go a struggle. Being aware of getting caught up in your thoughts and then letting them go, is absolutely fine and shows that you are doing it just right.

Letting go with mindful breathing.

Find yourself somewhere quiet to sit, where you will not be disturbed. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breathing.

Focus your mind on your tummy and imagine that you have a balloon in your tummy. Become aware of the gentle in and out as you inhale and exhale. You might find that placing a hand on your tummy helps if you have difficulty feeling the movement.

Notice the sensations as your tummy inflates and deflates. Your tummy getting larger as the imaginary balloon inflates and smaller as it deflates.

Allow thoughts to come into your mind, that is fine, because that is perfectly normal. Simply notice them with a sort of mildly interested curiousness. Say to yourself, “they are not important” then simply let them drift away as other thoughts take their place.

Now just bring your attention back to your breathing.

Likewise, you may notice feelings, emotions, images or hear sounds near or far. Just notice them, then let them go. Notice how your body relaxes. Then bring your attention gently back to your breathing.

With all thoughts, feelings or whatever, don’t judge them, try not to get caught up with them. It’s OK for them to come and go. Just notice them and let them drift away.

Whenever you notice yourself and your attention getting caught up with them, just gently bring your attention back to your breathing. No matter how many times it happens, just bring your attention back to your breathing.

Try this for two minutes at first, then five minutes and then gradually increase the time as you become more proficient. This is the art of mindfulness meditation. If you do no more than master this technique you will notice huge benefits to your life.

If you would like to learn more about mindfulness meditation contact us at www.stevecliffordcbt.com or for more on mindfulness look at bemindful.co.uk or mindfulnet.org

A good book on mindfulness meditation is: “Full catastrophe living; How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

Until next time, Steve

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype Please contact us through our website @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Steve Clifford Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                           Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.                                                               Registered Mental Nurse.                                                                                                     Registered Nurse for Learning Disabilities.

image: By Cornelia Kopp (Flickr: meditation) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Eleven tips to boost self-esteem.

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Low self-esteem can really affect your emotional well-being and it can underpin some common mental health problems and lead to poor self-confidence and shyness.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is the way that you think about yourself. If your self-esteem is low, the thoughts you have about yourself are likely to be negative and you are likely to focus on what you think are your weaknesses.

As a therapist I see many people with low-self esteem and this can often be at the root of problems such as eating disorders, depression, anxiety and phobias. While shyness and insecurity is often at the heart of low self-esteem, childhood factors such as bullying, abuse or neglect often leave the individual feeling less than good about themselves.

Having low self-esteem can affect a very area of life including work, personal relationships and your ability to socialise. Tackling low self-esteem and boosting positive thinking can really improve your sense of wellbeing and your mental health.

Here are some useful tips to help you boost your self-esteem.

1. Stop comparing yourself to others. You will nearly always home in on their strengths and that will make you feel worse about yourself.

2. Stop putting yourself down. Avoid self-deprecating comments such as, “you silly fool” or “your useless.” Every time you say something like this it erodes your self-esteem.

3. Listen out for compliments, learn to accept them and say “thank you.”

4. Find an affirmation, a statement such as, “I am confident and competent,” write it down and read it every day.

5. Read everything you can about self-esteem, devour books, blogs, websites, attend workshops and really make improving your self-esteem your mission in life.

6. Avoid people who are negative and put you down, instead mix with people who are positive, confident and supportive. Their positive self-esteem will rub off on you.

7. What do you like about yourself, however small. What qualities do you possess, for example, kindness, friendly, reliable, etc. note these down even if less than 100% perfect.

8. Make a list of your past successes, however small, like learning to ride a bicycle or play a musical instrument. Write these down.

9. What do other people value or compliment you on. Note these down too.

10. Try to do more of the things you love, rather than the things you think you ought to do.

11. Finally, be true to yourself. Respect yourself, live your life, not a life dictated to you by others.

Begin to make these positive changes today – Good luck.

Until next time, very best wishes, Steve.

 

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype                   Please contact us through our website @  www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook site @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                       Senior Accredited Integrative  Psychotherapist.                                                                 Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

image: By 143peace (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Food and Mood

 

Most people reading this will recognise that our state of mind and food are inextricably linked. Just as devouring a whole packet of biscuits or demolishing a chocolate bar is something many people crave when feeling tired or fed up, so too, using food to express their mental anguish is a common phenomenon.

These days, thanks to global media coverage, the awareness of conditions like obesity and eating disorders such as anorexia and binge eating are much better understood. Having said that, neither condition is more accepted in our society; however, with the diet and food industry seemingly bombarding us with subliminal messages telling us to eat this, or cut out that, it is no wonder many opt simply for denial.

The food and diet industry have a lot to answer for. Many will remember the advice to avoid butter, eggs and animal protein in meat and dairy, with spreads and low fat alternatives on every supermarket shelf. Yet today, “going to work on an egg” is once again acceptable and many shun spreads and the harmful trans fats they contain in favour of butter once again. Saturated fats are no longer seen as enemy number one. The years of confusing messages have literally turned us all off. Perhaps, Granny was right all along…”a little of what you fancy does you good.”

Diets too have come to be seen as fads that do not work. Remember these: the grapefruit diet, the cabbage diet, the Beverley Hills diet, the Atkins diet, the F-plan? I could go on.  There are the substitutes, too, where liquid meal replacements, biscuits, bars and all manner of alternatives take the place of food.

No wonder we are all confused. Look at the way the supplements industry pedal vitamins, minerals, capsules and powders of every description. All being heralded for their great health benefits. Elixir of life or youth capsules, take your pick, hand over your money and the choice is yours. Who said that snake oil remedies do not exist!

Whichever way we look at it, one thing is certain and that is, eating problems are psychological. With the very rare exception of a metabolic disorder, perhaps;  obesity, anorexia and many other food related conditions have nothing to do with hunger and everything to do with meeting an emotional need. Food is used as a “medicine” to dull down emotional pain, to soothe or to mask an emotional discomfort. Food is a comfort and we all seek to push away discomfort. Food is used to fill up, cover up, and build up a protective barrier.

Quite literally, food (and alcohol) is to the adult, the surrogate breast or bottle. Smoking too, while technically more of an obvious drug than food per se,often serves the same purpose. Yes, food can become addictive as can the hormones released when starving, or the soothing pain felt by an anorexic when they seek to feel “in control.”

To get to the bottom of our emotional discomfort and the role food plays in this really is the domain of the psychological health professional. We need someone to hold up the mirror and tell us what is really going on. We need to understand why it is that our search for the “magic potion” and a “quick fix” will bring us nothing but more suffering. Furthermore, changing eating habits is not easy, after all, making changes means altering our comfort level and most people naturally balk at that.

If you have a food issue seek out a health professional with expertise on eating disorders who has no emotional ties to you. Someone who will hold the mirror up and help you see the real picture and help you to make changes to the way you eat and your relationship to food.

Until next time, best wishes Steve.

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype                   Please contact us through our website @  www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook site @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                       Senior Accredited Integrative  Psychotherapist.                                                                 Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Primary Ref: Sullivan, R (2009) “Reclaim your youth, growing younger after 40.” Montgomery Ewing Publishers.

Image: “Supreme pizza” by Scott Bauer – http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/mar01/k7633-3.htm. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Supreme_pizza.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Supreme_pizza.jpg

Five tips for a more content life.

The restless demands of life, career, family and home often turn day to day living into a treadmill. By just making a few small changes to our outlook, this treadmill can be slowed down. You never know, you might just choose to hop off for a while and savour the moment.

Here they are:

1. Be aware of the snowball effect of your thinking.
Don’t blow things out of proportion. Dwell on an unimportant event and it quickly turns to a great big deal so fast that you don’t realise it’s happening.

2. Let go of the idea that relaxed people can’t be super achievers.
There is a myth that unless you are mean, jumping on people, criticising everything, you won’t get on. When you are relaxed, you have a calmer wisdom, access to common sense and see solutions more easily.

3.Choose being kind over being right.
People are obsessed with being right and proving it. Therefore, everyone else has to be wrong. If you want to be peaceful and happier, you have to allow other people to be right some of the time.

4.Every day, tell at least one person something you like or appreciate about them.
You have to make it a habit. Turn your attention to what’s right in life not what’s wrong. Don’t expect a compliment back.

5.Live this day as if it were your last.
….. and treat others as if it’s their last day too. By relating to people with openness and savouring the moment, we bring a freshness to the relationship. People really feel seen and recognised and met in a way they might otherwise not experience. Stopping to smell the scent of flowers, looking at the clouds and generally taking time to take in the world around you, leads to a greater contentment and sense of peace and well-being.

Begin today and start to really make the few small changes you need.

Good luck.

Until next time, very best wishes, Steve.

 

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype                   Please contact us through our website @  www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook site @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                       Senior Accredited Integrative  Psychotherapist.                                                                 Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image ref: “Ja roweromaniak 093-12”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ja_roweromaniak_093-12.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Ja_roweromaniak_093-12.jpg