Find your Self-belief

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How many times have you opted to stay in your comfort zone rather than try something new? How many things have you not done because you didn’t believe in yourself? Missing opportunities leaves us feeling regret and erodes our sense of self.

I really believe that all of us were born with infinite energy to achieve things. It takes courage to move out of our comfort zone, but growth happens right on the edge not in the middle. Yes, it may feel scary, but by gritting your teeth and facing your fears of not being good enough you can achieve great things.

There are a number of things you can do to begin to make changes and no better time than the present to do so.  Go out and do something with others, perhaps joining a local choir or club. Many organisations welcome volunteers no matter how little time or experience you have. Helping other people is not only good for them and a great thing to do; it also makes us happier and healthier too.

Going for a walk or doing some other outdoor activity can help with self-esteem. Research shows that getting active makes us happier as well as being good for our physical health. It instantly improves our mood and can even lift us out of a depression.

Trying out new things or learning a new  skill can gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps boost our self-confidence and resilience.

Set yourself some goals for 2016. Something exciting, new, ambitious but realistic.  Setting goals  and having dreams gives our lives direction and brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when we achieve them.

Stop comp airing yourself to others.  No-one’s perfect. Dwelling on our flaws, makes it much harder to be happy. Learning to accept ourselves, warts and all is the key to improving our self-belief.

If you’ve ever felt there must be more to life? The answer is, there is!  Next time that negative inner voice tries to talk you out of something… say NO.

Make 2016 your year.

Until next time, Steve

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Twitter @cbt4you

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                                                 Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                                                                                 Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

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Should I see a therapist?

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Well, that really depends on why you want to see a therapist. If you are going to see them with the hope that they will solve your problems, then perhaps not. If, however, you are going to them with the hope that they will help you to solve your problems, then that’s another matter. You see, the job of a therapist is not to “fix,” but instead to help you to mobilise your resources. A good therapist does not solve your problems, but helps you to develop the capacity to solve your own problems.

People often look to have therapy when they have a major life crisis, such as a death, the end of a relationship or the loss of a job. Sometimes people feel empty or inadequate inside, or they may feel that life is not going right and they may feel unfulfilled.

It can take courage to go and see a therapist, after all, firstly the person has to admit they have needs and then they have to face them. Fear of facing painful feelings can prevent people seeking help and many turn to work, alcohol or other coping strategies to push thoughts and feelings out of their consciousness. Therapy does require a commitment from you, but it is worthwhile and talking about difficult emotions in a safe space can be very liberating. Expressing your thoughts and feelings in such a way as to clarify your own situation, come to terms with painful emotions and see your difficulties with greater objectivity can really be helpful.

It is the therapist job to provide you with a space where you can talk without fear of judgement. In other words, a confidential place where you can feel held, secure and safe. For many, the therapy room is a refuge, a sanctuary. I like to think of it as your room, your space within my world. A place where you can return to at any time in your life should you need.

A good therapist will make you feel at ease, they may even feel more like a friend than a professional therapist, someone with whom you may feel you can tell anything. Whilst friendship and friendliness may be an important ingredient, along with warmth, genuineness and congruence they can never be a friend as such. You are seeking their help as a professional not as a chum, buddy, lover or any other relationship.  It is precisely because of the uniqueness of this relationship where warmth and friendship in the therapy space combined with professional integrity come together in the service of your difficulties. Next time you are telling a friend something notice how they will often come back and try to tell you a worse story, or perhaps they will tell you what to do or simply rubbish what you say. A good therapist won’t do this. Of course, there may be a value in the therapist sharing or disclosing something of themselves, they will only do so really if it is deemed to be helpful and supports the therapeutic endeavour. You can be sure of one thing though, unlike a friend or acquaintance, a good therapist won’t dump their garbage on your shoulders!

The term psychotherapist is one that I really like. Not because it is a lovely grandiose title… but because of the original Greek meaning of the word. Here the word therapist literally means “attendant” and the word psyche literally means “spirit” or “soul.” So a psychotherapist is literally a “Soul Attendant.”

One of the problems when deciding that you want to take up therapy is to find the right type of therapy for you. The problem is that there are just so many different types of therapy to choose from. Therapies vary from analytical laying on the couch type therapy, to body therapy, cognitive behavioural, transpersonal to neurolinguistic programming. The list is seemingly endless. I suggest you go to a good bookshop and look for books on therapy in the psychology section, alternatively contact a few therapists and ask them to tell you more about their particular approach.

Probably the best way to find a therapist is through personal recommendation. This may be from your doctor or a friend. The key thing is that the therapists approach has to feel right for you.

These days a lot is spoken about a type of therapy know as cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT, which is my own speciality. This is an action-oriented as well as word-oriented therapy. It helps people understand what is happening and what they can do to change the way they feel and react. CBT looks at the way thoughts (cognitions) and beliefs affect our emotions and the meaning we give to events. This affects our emotions and our reactions (behaviours). Unlike some other approaches, CBT is a relatively short term psychotherapeutic approach. The length of therapy tends to depend on the complexity of the presenting problem. A block of sessions ( usually six) may often be enough for a noticeable difference to emerge. Improvement to “quality of life” is often the best measure of success. The goal of CBT could be said, to enable the client to learn ways to address problems and difficulties in order to become their own therapist.

If somebody asked me what do you do? I would reply that I do many things, but one of the most important things is”tilting the mirror.” In other words. Reflecting back in such a way as enable the client to glimpse a slightly different perspective. Helping the client gain insight and understanding. This may be helping the client to see how unhelpful thinking traits, such as catastrophizing mind reading, black and white thinking distort their view of reality. We may look at the meaning they give to events creates a huge emotional upheaval and how stepping back and distancing can help. Then together we look at the problem area and the way it impacts on the person’s life. We consider how life would be different if the problem was resolved. We look at what may need to happen or change, then we look at the emotions arising out of the event or situation and talk about them. Together we identify what needs to happen to bring about resolution of the problem area. Then we identify strategies and goals (or aspirations) to aim for. Working within a specific time frame, using measures and behavioural experiments to help us. Through the course of therapy the client and therapist walk “shoulder to shoulder,” addressing the difficulties In a collaborative way.

Some people say, “I felt worse after my first session,” for others, getting it out in the open can be a great relief. Problems rarely resolve themselves without action, and if they do so, it may not be in the way we desire. Having the opportunity to explore them with another person may help a great deal.

Don’t expect miracles, but don’t dismiss the possibility that resolution of difficulties can feel like a miracle. Therapists are not “miracle workers” and if they present themselves that way, don’t go anywhere near them! The therapist is there to guide you to achieve your goals, not to do the work for you or “make” you feel better. Every session you attend is one step closer to feeling better.

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

visit us @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com
Like us @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                                        tweet @ cbt4you

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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.

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Informal mindfulness Practice

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While many of you reading this will be happy practicing mindful meditation in a formal setting, others may want to expand their daily practice. Incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine at home really is the start point to embracing mindfulness as a way of life.

Start by picking an activity that do on a regular basis such as brushing your teeth or having a shower or bath. These activities are good because they encourage you to focus on your senses. Engaging in either activity with full awareness will help you to learn how to temporarily step aside from the constant chitter-chatter of the thinking mind.

Totally focusing your attention on what you are doing, with an attitude of curiosity and non-judgemental openness will help you to develop a more intimate relationship with yourself. Try to tune in to the senses: notice the movement of your body, the taste, the touch, the smell, the sight, the sound, and so on.

For example, being mindful when taking a shower, notice the sound the water makes as it leaves the nozzle, perhaps the sound of the spray. Notice the way the sound is different as it hits the hard surface of the bath or shower tray. Notice the way it sounds as it touches the skin. Now feel the water itself, the temperature, the force of the water against your body, the way it feels in your hair, on your shoulders. Now notice how it feels with the water running over your body, does it feel different on your shoulders compared to your chest, or down your back.

Now shift your senses to the smell of the shampoo or soap you are using, experience the lather and the way it feels as you rub it into your hair or your body. With the soap on your body, try to notice the subtle plane of contact between the soap and your skin. Imagine that contact as it is happening, really feel it. Notice how it feels as you rub harder or softer.

Now shift your attention to the water again, this time becoming aware of the way the water droplets cascade down the hard surfaces of the walls, shower curtain or screen. Notice the way the droplets form and drip. Notice the way steam and condensation create a vapour, an atmosphere around you.

Notice the movements of your arms and the way you wash your body. Connect to your experience. Does the act of showering have a sensuous quality? Are you rushing or are you savouring and really enjoying the experience? Or is showering merely a chore you want to get out of the way? How do appreciate the water itself? Can you see the way nature provided rain and how this gas been transformed into the water you are now using? Can you appreciate this great gift, the luxury of a shower when many in the world are devoid of precious water? Can you give thank for the water, or indeed being able to shower yourself without assistance?

What of your thoughts? You will find that many thoughts arise and particularly if you are just learning to be mindful, staying focused is hard. When you catch yourself getting caught up in your thoughts , simply acknowledge them and gently let go of them, bringing your attention back to what you’re doing. As you will soon realise, again and again your thoughts will wander, this is completely normal. Simply, acknowledge, shift focus and attend mindfully once again to what you are doing.

So here we are, a practical exercise to help introduce mindfulness practise in everyday life. Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations as you go about your daily tasks is a first step to bringing mindfulness into the centre stage of your life.

Until next time,

Steve

Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation

Weekly Group

Wednesdays      6 -7pm

Free Admission 

Venue:

The Bexhill Mindfulness Centre

Meeting at: Parkhurst Hall, Parkhurst Road, Bexhill, TN39 3JA

This weekly gathering is an opportunity to engage in simple mindfulness meditations with others. There is no commitment to attending each week. As well as meditations there will also be a talk or discussion on aspects of mindfulness in daily living or the philosophy of mindfulness. The groups are suitable for all ages irrespective of background and no experience of mindfulness meditation is necessary. Meditation takes place on chairs, you do not need to wear special clothing or bring anything with you.

Love to see you if you can make it

 

Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com                                                                                      Like our page @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                              Also @ www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

 

Get yourself a few rays of Sunshine – Beat #Depression

 50Tips

Tip 29 – Extract from “50 Tips to Beat Depression” available on Amazon

It is not just Morecombe and Wise who extol the benefits of sunshine.  Boosting the supply of vitamin D in the body serves to maintain optimum levels of serotonin to assist the activity of cells throughout the body, regulating mood, sleep and our ability to process information.  In the summer months go out for a few minutes every day, soak up the sun and ensure supplies of vitamin D are topped up.  Meet friends for a picnic, take a stroll before nightfall and watch the sunset.  In the winter, consider hiring or purchasing a light box, (see tip 40), as serotonin levels change with the seasons and are at their lowest in the winter months.

Until next time.

With best wishes, Steve.

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com

Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com                                                                                      Ask us your mental health questions anytime @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                                                  Tweet us @ cbt4you

 

7 ways that mindfulness will enrich your life.

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1. Mindfulness is not about salvation, becoming saintly or developing a holier than thou personality. Our true nature is basically good and mindfulness enables us to develop greater awareness of the self, the world around us and people we come into contact with. By accepting that the knowledge we presently possess is not the absolute changeless truth, we learn to avoid being narrow minded and bound to particular views or doctrine. The path to reality (not salvation) is living mindfully, cultivating greater peace, compassion and understanding. Non attachment from views allows us to be open to others’ viewpoints, open to continual learning and stops us becoming bigoted know-alls. All systems of thoughts are guiding means only, not absolute truth.

2. Mindfulness offers us choice, and choice is freedom from worldly (or other worldly) constraints. Mindfulness is about seeing with our own eyes and making choices every moment, choices that have a direct impact on our world, that world in which we inhabit. It does not lay before us a set of rules we must slavishly follow, nothing we must accept purely on the basis of somebody else’s spiritual authority. Mindfulness is about direct life experience, in the now, from the thoughts we think, to the words we utter and the deeds we do.

3. Like a benign and loving gardener caring for the seeds and plants, yet also nurturing the environment and creating a haven for frogs, birds and wildlife, the more acts of kindness, caring concern and tender loving care we offer to those around us and our world, the more they will blossom and produce seeds, fruit and beautiful flowers. By creating the conditions that nurture others, we are creating the conditions that let our inner self flourish. Nurturing our own positive qualities and choosing positive over negative, allows us to find positive meaning in our lives. Mindfulness allows us to see things and discern with greater accuracy and less distortion. We begin to listen to a peaceful inner voice, rather than a fragile ego.  The result is a greater inner confidence and personal security.

4.
Mindfulness can help nurture and develop greater emotional resilience and freedom from stress and emotional disharmony. By cultivating inner calmness we can learn to develop the ability to bend with the winds of emotional turbulence. Like a pebble on a beach we can allow the negative waves of emotional disharmony to pass over us. Responding to stress around us with a non reactive awareness we can develop a more balanced perspective. What might have been responded to in a negative, attacking, judging or defensive manner can be as a neutral part of life’s passing show.

5. It can help to promote a greater sense of connection with others. Just as the act of physically hugging another can flood the body with oxytocin, a hormone that enhances closeness, warmth and nurturing in early parenthood. Mindfulness can help us to develop a deeper sense of personal security which can bring about a soothing influence on those around us. As we become less prone to receiving whatever negativity may be emanating from those around us, we develop a more stable sense of self.

Developing a more intimate relationship with ourselves can lead us to become less reliant on others. When we do not “need” others to feel accepted, supported and loved, we are not dependent on others to make us feel secure and accepted. Just as when another is overwhelmed by anxiety, hooked into being upset and overreacting, we can help by simply offering a mindful presence, offering ourselves as a safe container by paying full attention with heartfelt empathy and emotional attunement. Adopting a sense of calm spaciousness along with a calm and caring warmth can help them feel the safe haven, if only at a subliminal level of neural resonance.

6.
Mindfulness promotes greater honesty and genuineness. When we stop saying untruthful things in order to impress people or for our own personal aims and interest, we learn that we do not need to play this game. When we step back from gossiping or spreading rumour we do not know to be certain, we become less judgemental, less critical. Over time people will begin to recognise we are truthful and courageous and will gravitate towards us; they too are likely to want to learn to speak truthfully and constructively like us, and in so doing, begin to develop a greater sense of personal security.

7. Tuning into the self through mindfulness allows us to be fully present and available. It will help us to learn how to manage physical and emotional pain and stress and to fully experience thinking, feeling and being. It allows us to be fully present in whatever we are doing, accepting without judgement and savouring the pleasures in life as we experience them. It allows us to detach from worries and become less concerned with success and self-esteem. It can help cultivate a greater sense of personal well-being, and research has shown that it can help improve physical and psychological health.

Until next time,

Love and Peace, Steve

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com                                                                                      Like us @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                                        Tweet us @ cbt4you

References:

Bennett-Goleman, T (2013) “Try a Little Tenderness” Shambhala Sun, July. 69-74.

Hanh, Thich Nhat (1991) Peace is every step; the path of mindfulness in every step. Rider.

McLeod, M (2013) “Are You Spiritual But Not Religious?” Shambhala Sun, Nov. 43-49.

Mindfulness – Beat #Depression

50Tips

Tip 23  – Extract from “50 Tips to Beat Depression” available on Amazon

There are many types of meditation and ways to meditate.  Mindfulness meditation is a particular type of meditation which originated in the East and has been shown to be particularly helpful for those with depression and anxiety (Williams et al, 2007).  It is especially helpful in enabling the individual to develop the ability to detach from negative or troublesome thoughts.  Essentially, mindfulness teaches us to focus on our experiences moment by moment, without judging or getting caught up in inner dialogue.  With practice we learn to become fully aware of what is happening in the moment, acknowledging  sensations, emotions, impulses, thoughts and images, yet simply accepting them without trying to explain, rationalise or reason.  Thoughts are just thoughts, and mindfulness teaches us to observe them just as we might observe a cloud passing in the sky.  Here is a useful breathing mindfulness meditation to begin with.

One: Make yourself comfortable, sitting with your hands resting in your lap.

Two: Focus on your breathing and notice the gentle in and out of your breath.

Three: Focus your attention on the movement and sensation of the breathing process. Do not try to alter it, merely follow it.

Four: As you find your mind wandering (and it certainly will) simply bring it back to the breathing process and focus again on what is happening.

Five: Continue this for a few minutes; with practice, lengthen the time as you become more proficient.  Some people find it helpful to meditate at the same time each day.  You may find it useful to do so at a time when you are particularly troubled by negative or troublesome thoughts.  Do not worry about your wandering mind, the key is catching yourself doing it and bringing your awareness back to your breathing.  Remember, even the most experienced meditators have wandering minds and may have to bring their attention back many, many times.

Until next time.

With best wishes, Steve.

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com

Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com                                                                                      Ask us your mental health questions anytime @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                                                  Tweet us @ cbt4you