We did an exercise in the group last week which we have not done for a while whereby each group member will write down positive qualities and skills that they see in each of the others. This is an exercise that from the outset requires trust amongst the group that the relationships are connected enough for this to feel ok. People were very genuine and truly able to express what they thought about each other. People then read out their list of strengths if they felt comfortable to do so. This can feel like a strange thing to do in a culture where saying positive things about yourself can sometimes be seen quite negatively as ‘blowing your own trumpet’. However, people’s experience of this was that it was actually moving and encouraging, although for some it was quite difficult to hear or accept positive words, but even then there was still somethings uplifting it was for them. Group members who have done this before have kept the lists of their strengths, and at times have found it really helpful when they have been having a bad day, or are hearing a critical voice, whether that is their own, or somebody elses, to be reminded that these are their strengths and good qualities. Somehow seeing positive feedback written down in black and white can feel easier to believe than relying on our thought processes which can often turn to negative and dismissing the positive
People also found that it was really nice to be able to say how they felt, because again it is a bit alien in our culture so say super nice things to each other! One comment in this session was that ‘I have never known a group where people are so genuinely encouraging of each others successes’.
Everyone loves a story, whether we read them, watch them, hear them or dance or draw them. The world is full of stories, the narration of life in the world, or other worlds, or hidden worlds. We identify with them, learn from them, are moved by them, are horrified, disgusted or terrified by them. They enable us to feel into somebody else’s life, culture and experiences. It’s so nice to be told a story. It’s an intriguing escape to be pulled into a narrative and hope for things like resolution or justice or for love to conquer, to have a mystery revealed and things explained, to experience suspense and relief, or to share a joy or sorrow.
The group has a new book!! Philip Pullman’s ‘Grimm Tales’. The Grimm brothers wrote down German versions of fairy tales and folklore in the 18th and 19th centuries. Though the stories themselves are often much older, sometimes thousands of years old. Passed on through the generations in an oral tradition, they have crossed continents and cultures so that different versions of the same story exist around the world. We discovered this ourselves in a previous storytelling session where quite by accident we read an English story and a Middle Eastern story and although the setting was different the story and its message were the same.
A Fairy Tale is a very particular genre, it’s centre is not the written text given its oral history and fluctuations through travel and storytellers, we do not get fully developed or even named characters, but find a lot of princesses, stepmothers, frogs, witches, mirrors, elves and dwarfs. The story is just kind of told without background, history or embellishment [Philip Pullman; 2012]. And the Grimm tales really can be quite grim with grizzly deaths and punishments, unfairness, injustice, beatings, imprisonment and occasional cannibalism.
So to be cheered up we read a tale called ‘The Fisherman and his Wife’. The tale involves an enchanted prince in the form of a fish who grants the fisherman’s wife everything she wanted. We enjoyed listening to the story and afterwards reflected on the ambition and greed of the fisherman’s wife and how she was never satisfied and didn’t know when to stop. We applied this discussion to our present culture and the emptiness sometimes of just having money and things and how relationships come to be about status and prestige and association thereby lacking real connections leaving people feel quite lonely and isolated because they are befriended for their fame or status and not because of a common interest or genuine liking of one another.
Group members really enjoyed the meaning behind the story and the escapism it provided.
It is a year since we launched ‘A Life Worth Living’. It has been very successful and we have been pleased to welcome a large number of new members. ‘A Life Worth Living Group’ has grown so much, that we are temporarily not taking new people into the group. This change does not affect people who have previously attended.
We will keep contact details of anyone new who is interested in attending this group, or similar provision, in the future, and we will update information when this situation changes.
Sometimes when in the middle of difficulties and life’s storms it can be helpful to remember the wee things that make you smile, and can actually change a moment or even your day. A few people cited how nice it is when a random stranger smiles at you and can really brighten your day. Dogs can make us smile and make us feel better, its very nice to be met by a waggy tail, and to see how dogs are naturally friendly to one another, or the way they cosy in with us, or how they are just so happy to chase a ball relentlessly all day long. Most people will connect to some kind of animal affectionately, whether that’s thinking a sloth is cute or funny or enjoying YouTube videos of kittens!
For some people getting outside and connecting with nature caused a smile, noticing flowers, birds and sunshine. And when back in the hubbub of people, overhearing snippets of conversation or seeing someone be kind to another makes us smile; or meeting up with and being able to chat to friends. Children can be very humourous when they just say it as it is with no filter or have us play games and do things their way. We watched the funny clip from the news last year when the children interrupted a live interview.
Sometimes doing something which feels like an achievement can feel very pleasing to us. That can be getting through the door of ‘A Life Worth Living’ on days where it just feels really hard to do so, but the benefit of being with others and connecting makes people feel better and leave with a smile. One person had pushed through a particularly hard time and had taken themselves on a trip and felt so much better for it.
Music and humour are other elements which make us smile…different comedy for different people, and as we certainly discovered last time, people definitely had different musical preferences. The smiley music cited for this week was the sound of the sixties on Radio 2.
While we are going through tough times we may find it hard to raise a smile, but if we can, it can act as a stepping stone to making you feel a bit better.
Chatting about what music means to us is a popular topic at various times in the group. We did things a bit differently today and took the time to listen to three different songs. We used the time to be quiet and properly listen to the music, the lyrics, the tune, the harmony and the instruments and see what we thought the artist was trying to say, what it meant for us, what emotions were evoked in us and how the whole experience of the song as a whole affected us.
The first song that we listened to was ‘Beautiful’ by Christina Aguilera. Interestingly everyone in the group had a very similar reaction to this song in that it was felt to be insincere and a bit of a marketing gimmick, and though the words were a nice sentiment it wasn’t deep enough or genuine enough to be particularly meaningful for people.
The next song we listened to was ‘In My Life’ by The Beatles. This received a more mixed reaction. Because it’s The Beatles, and the massive affection held for them some felt they would like it anyway by association, though admitted that this was maybe the first time they had properly listened to the words. So for some there would good memories and it felt nice to listen, for others it spoke of loss and this incurred some pain or memories of their own loss, and still for others it felt that all the past was being disregarded and put away for the love of a current one which was perhaps unrealistic.
The final song was ‘The best is yet to come’ by Mike and the Mechanics. This song was unanimously disliked for being clichéd and shallow! And thought that the singer was saying that potentially ‘her’ happiness depended on him. Admittedly it was upbeat with a driving beat. One person felt that it was optimistic and saying Yes! to life.
The group found this to be a really interesting exercise to really listen collectively to the music and the ways in which each person interpreted the pieces of music in different ways. Below are the pieces of music.
It was nice to see everyone at the start of this new year and to hear all about how they got on over the holiday period. As some people struggle over this period we felt it right to use this space to hear peoples’ experiences. As you can imagine people had mixed experiences over the Christmas period. For some, there was a sense of relief that the holidays were over for another year. While for others they have been left with a feeling of flatness at the start of the year. We then looked at what members’ goals and hopes were for 2018.
- Continue to have boundaries and stay strong
- Continue to see chidren
- Have a better diet
- Be less isolated
- Be less self-critical
- Possibly volunteer
- Create a structure into week
- Continue getting well for me and my family
- Be more open with people
- Not discounting postives in my life
- Not judging myself
- Read less
- Go on confidence course
This exercise seemed to help people give them a focus of what they would like to achieve in the year ahead.
Below is a table which shows essential nutrients for better mental health and wellbeing. (Thanks to Steve Turnbull for providing this)
|35||Kiwi fruit||17||89||Rice, brown||8|
|39||Garlic||16||93||Lemon & lime||7|
|49||Soy beans||15||103||Olive oil||3|
|51||Beans, pinto||14||105||Soy sauce||3|
|Hot water with lemon|
|Cumin tea (cumin seeds boild in water & strained out; add honey)|
|Hot chocolate (Green & Black’s organic)|
|Yogurt shots (actimel, yakult or bonnie shots)|
|Orange juice (cold pressed)|
|Apple juice (cold pressed)|
|Snacks||Nuts||cashews, almonds, peanuts, walnuts|
|(must be whole nuts, not cooked or roasted, unsalted)|
|Fruit||Raspberries, strawberries, kiwi fruit, pineapple, oranges, bananas|
|yogurts||organic and probiotic preferably, with fruit pieces|
|(tip: chop up some fruit and add yogurt on top as a desert)|
|Salads||on a roll||spinach, rocket, tomatoes, bell peppers, romaine lettuce|
|meal||spinach, rocket, tomatoes, bell peppers, romaine lettuce|
|swiss chard, cucumber|
|add sesame seeds, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds|
|(tip: add chilli peppers and coriander for heat)|
|(tip: add strawberries and grapes for extra flvour)|
|serve with mackerel, tuna, salmon, beef or turkey|
|vegetables||stir fry||asparagus, broccoli, bok choy, mushroom, bell peppers,|
|chilli peppers, carrots, peas, garlic|
|use coconut oil, sea salt, black pepper and spices|
|roast||sweet potatoe, carrot, bell peppers, garlic, parsnips, mushrooms|
|tomatoes (cut them open and add a drop of balsamic vinegar)|
|(coat with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and spices)|
|steam||asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans|
|(make a cheese sauce to pour over the cauliflower)|
|boil||brussel sprouts (then fry them with smoked bacon bits)|
|soup||chunky vegetable soups, or healthy soups from Baxters|
|Scottish soup company|