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

 

 

Massage and Emotional Wellbeing

pulsing picture

When we are physically well and our body is in good shape the impact of the stress upon us will be far less than it would if we were unfit.  With a well-tuned body we are better able to handle the demands of life, express ourselves and project our personality and needs.  Indeed, it could be said that the body is a barometer, measuring the degree to which we are functioning effectively.  When we are unfit this not only makes it more difficult to cope with the many pressures upon us, but it also adds to the levels of stress we experience.

When we hold onto external stress, whether physical or psychological, it is manifested as “tension” in the body.  Its impact upon us may be imperceptible.  We may not even be aware that we are holding on to stress at all.  Sometimes, the first sign that indicates an accumulation of internalised stress is a noticeable increase in clumsiness and poor           co-ordination.  At a more subtle level, rigidity is present and the free flow of movement is inhibited.  Energy levels, too, may be noticeably impeded, as we may feel lethargic (slowed) or agitated (hyper-arousal).

If we are unable to release the build up of internalised tension this can result in headaches, tightness (often neck and shoulders), aches and pains (commonly stomach or lower back), the immune system can become deficient and we are more susceptible to colds and illness.  Likewise, even symptoms such as dry hair, skin rashes and poor sleep patterns frequently result from internalised stress and tension.

Stress is such a common feature of everyday life as to be regarded as “normal” and while this is true to some extent, stress levels are definitely up and the demands on us now are far greater than ever before in human history.  Most of us can adapt to moderate levels of stress, particularly short-term, but so often though, the result is ill-health.  Anything from colds and flu, to Angina, heart attack, conditions like depression, even cancer, has been linked to stress.

Underpinning the symptoms of stress can be unresolved trauma, or sudden shock, and similarly there may have been a build up or accumulation of stress over a long period.  Stress can arise as the result of internalised emotion such as anger, guilt or worry.  Whatever the cause, the important thing to do is to listen to the body and identify causative factors and then work to release the excess stress which gives rise to muscular tension.  The body can then begin to return to a more harmonious and balanced state.

Touch is something which is often absent from many peoples lives and it can be very healing. We actively need to be touched for our emotional health. This need is more than   simply a desire. It is a physiological necessity that, if unsatisfied can have profound            psychological effects. Research has shown that even a 30 minute neck and back massage can reduce depression. It can lower levels of stress related hormones and make people more alert, less restless and able to enjoy deeper, more  restful sleep.

The mode of body therapy that I practise is known as pulsing. In my opinion it is particularly well suited to promoting emotional well-being.  It is a very effective and gentle mode of bodywork with its emphasis on listening to the body and working directly with the natural rhythms and movement; assisting the free flow of energy and working to restore the natural resting state which occurs when the body is at ease.  Pulsing utilises gentle, rhythmic rocking movements to facilitate the release of stress, either on the physical, psychological or emotional level.  Amid continual rhythmic rocking the client is transported to a place of blissful peace and tranquillity, reminiscent, perhaps, of the womb or being rocked in a parent’s arms.  The ebb and flow of the breath is mirrored in purposeful movements, sometimes subtle and barely perceptible, other times lively and bold.  With no strain whatsoever, the body is moved gently through natural pathways, promoting mobility and encouraging relaxation and openness.  The wave-like movements bring about very deep relaxation as muscular tension is eased.

Clients learn how to recognise physical tension and how to let it go.  Often in so doing, emotional pain will be released and equilibrium will be restored along with a deepened sense of vitality and peace.  At the hands of an experienced practitioner, the gentle rhythmic movement can leave you feeling like you are dancing on a cushion or air.  As you learn to let go of bodily stress you will be better prepared to move forward and face life’s challenges.

For more information or to book a taster session please contact us.

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, Psychotherapist and body worker.

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com

Ask us your mental health questions anytime @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

Tweet us @ cbt4you

References:

Alexander J. (2001) Mind, Body ,Spirit, Carlton Books, London.

Kirsta A. (1987) The book of stress survival,  Gaia Books Ltd, London.

Remember the Positives – Beat #Depression

50Tips

Tip 6 – Extract from “50 Tips to Beat Depression” available on Amazon

It’s very easy when you are feeling down to lose sight of the positives.  One facet of depression is the way the depressed outlook shapes thinking.  The depressed person tends to ruminate on the negative things people say, and hears only critical comments. This is called “filtering out” and is a particular type of unhelpful thinking trait that often goes hand in hand with depression.  Instead of noticing things in a balanced way, we only notice things that “fit” our negative mind-set and we dismiss the positives. This in turn serves to reinforce low self-esteem and a negative outlook.

One way to turn this around is to create a positive book (see tip 25).  Buy a small exercise book, and if you are creative, cover it with a bright paper cover or positive images from magazines.  Use this book to jot down positive things that happen, positive things people say and positive things that you have achieved during the day.  Slowly you will begin to notice more and more positives as you learn to hear them and not dismiss them from your radar.

Consultant Psychologist Rick Norris, in his excellent book, “The Promised Land,” recommends compiling a list of 20 positive memories.  He acknowledges that this can be somewhat overwhelming, as depressed people get out of the habit of playing memories that make them happy, because their mental filter tends to screen these out of their conscious mind.  He suggests recalling three positive memories each day for a week. He tells us the benefit of doing this exercise last thing at night is because it can be a pleasant way to drop off to sleep and also that we tend to be more in tune with our sub-conscious mind during sleep, perhaps  leading to sweeter dreams!

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

Make a Comfort Box – Beat #Depression

50Tips 

Tip 3 – Extract from “50 Tips to Beat Depression” available on Amazon

It’s often hard to remember the good things in life when you are feeling low in mood.  At such times happiness and positive memories can seem far away.  Stimulating positive memories and associations can be invaluable in helping to keep us grounded in the real world and help lift the spirit.  Creating a “capsule” containing mementoes from the past can help to evoke feelings of comfort, warmth and personal security during difficult times.

A shoebox, biscuit tin or similar can be used to house objects to inspire hope.  I have a comfort box and mine includes a variety of objects: photographs and even “thank you cards” which I can use as “evidence” to support my being a worthwhile person.  I recommend any of the following:

CD, LP, MP3 of favourite music, chill-out, relaxation, etc.

DVD of favourite film with uplifting, or feel good theme, etc.

Photograph of a loved one or of something or somewhere of importance

Memento of a holiday, postcard, seashell, souvenir, foreign money, flight ticket stubs, booklet or programme from places visited

A note, card or letter from a loved one or write a letter to yourself when feeling well, offering encouragement and re-assurance that you will come through this difficult time

A favourite poem, statement, prayer or article that inspires hope

A favourite book, magazine or colourful picture

A favourite object, i.e. a small stone, crystal, lucky charm or something that is tactile

A sketchpad with crayons or watercolour paints

Aromatic oils for massage, scented candles, bath bombs or bath oils/salts

Herbal teas such as Chamomile, known for its calming properties

Favourite item of clothing, warm jumper or a blanket

A hot water bottle

Vouchers for a massage or beauty treatment

A list of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses of family or friends to whom you can turn for support (try to look for support from more than one person).

A list of national help lines e.g. Samaritans, Sane, MIND, etc. .

Any object associated with feeling happy and well.

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 at: www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                                                  Tweet us @ cbt4you

It’s good to talk

File:Camila.jpg
Sometimes life can seem very overwhelming,  especially if you’re suffering with a mental health problem. For years I have suffered with anxiety and depression. It has affected every aspect of my life from my relationships with partners, friends and family, to my work and even my physical health. My chronic low self esteem has led me to walk with my head down for so many years that my neck and back have slowly deformed and I now have a small hunch. It’s just one more thing to hate about myself, and another reason why I felt I couldn’t live anymore, why I felt I didn’t deserve life.
When I planned my suicide the first time I was at an all time low, but strangely I didn’t recognise that. I felt calm and in control. I made meticulous plans and took my time stockpiling prescription and over the counter drugs. I cheerfully strolled into the supermarket and purchased alcohol. The checkout girl could be forgiven for thinking I was having a party, because in my head I was. I was finally going to be free of all the agonising feelings, the torturous thoughts and the confused state my mind was in. I had been looking forward to this day for weeks and had all my affairs in order. I went home, made sure I left the door unlocked, fed my cat, put on my favourite album and poured myself a large glass.
When I woke up in hospital initially I was devastated, how could it have gone wrong? But as I looked around at the tear stained worried faces I began to realise that maybe people did care about me. Maybe their lack of warmth and comfort towards me was really lack of knowledge and understanding. The question I was continually asked was “why didn’t you tell us that you felt so bad?” Well I thought it was obvious! But apparently it’s not obvious.
When you suffer from depression for a long time you can get very good at keeping your brave face on in public and the inner turmoil you’re feeling may not show on the outside. It’s only once you express that turmoil that people can begin to understand and maybe even help.
Unfortunately this revelation was not the end of my depression and I did wake up in hospital on another 3 occasions. However it did start my journey onto talking, writing and expressing the pent up feelings I had inside of me, which helped other people understand more. I am still suffering with my mental health but I am on the road to recovery. Letting the thoughts and feelings out rather than keeping them hidden in my head has taken the weight off and I feel a little freer of my illness every day.

Thank you anonymous

With all good wishes

Steve

Please email your submission posts to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com                                Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

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

image ref: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACamila.jpg