Posted in Weekly Blog

Finding your inner strengths


Today at the group we looked at what we think our strengths are.  Firstly each group member was given post-it notes to write down what they felt their strengths and gifts are. This can prove to be not a particularly easy thing to do if we are not feeling good about ourselves.  However, today people were able to list some of their strengths.  It was nice to see members being able to do this despite the challenges they constantly face in their lives.  For the second exercise each group member listed on post-it notes what they felt their fellow group members strengths were. Once this was completed everyone read out their lists of what others saw in them to the rest of the group.  The lists were quite extensive!  There was a lot of similarities in the strengths that people saw in one another. What was interesting was how massive the list were for each person was compared to what the individual thought themselves.

People really enjoyed doing this  exercise, and the good thing is that group members can take away their lists and pull them out  if they ever felt feelings of low self-worth.

It was a very worthwhile group today and helped people to see their worth to others, becoming more self-aware and ultimately having compassion for oneself.

Posted in Weekly Blog

How to reach across the gap


At this group we acknowledged that feeling lonely and isolated is at times part of the human condition, a human experience that is universal.  We may literally be on our own or we may feel a dark sense of loneliness in our hearts even if we do have people in our lives.

We talked about some of the different places that people had reached out to, and had found helpful in times of isolation, these included; Barony Contact Point, Breathing Space, community centres and volunteering.  Others might be groups about specific things e.g. walking groups or a learning class.  We discussed that social media can sometimes contribute to a sense of feeling disconnected and at others times alleviate loneliness.

However, while there might be a list of places to go and meet with others, what do you do if you feel so anxious or down on yourself that you feel unable to talk to anyone?

A set of social tools is something that can be learned, so although some people seem more naturally gifted, anyone can learn a few tips enough to meet people and hopefully form a connection.  One strategy mentioned was looking at the most recent headlines which could be a good conversation topic, others tips include:

  1. Have some questions or topics ready
  2. Smile and make eye contact
  3. Focus on the other person, reflect back or ask a question e.g. so you got the bus here, was traffic bad? Don’t worry about having small talk, its a way into a conversation, and with the right connection can lead to big talk!

We also discussed having healthy boundaries and healthy relationships.  Some people can find that they seem to attract people who drain their energy and can feel quite negative.  We talked about actively choosing the relationships we want rather than feeling obliged and drawn in. This may mean saying no to an invite, or not giving out your phone number.  In the past in the group people have talked about having a social detox and losing the people who put them down, are critical, draining, abusive or lead them astray.relationshipA good friendship should challenge you but not crush you, make you feel bigger not smaller, make you feel like you’re really funny even when your jokes are terrible, make you feel likeable.  And they should be equal; there are times when we need to provide support, and times when we need to feel supported, and in amongst all this there should be fun, kindness and understanding.  It’s also good to recognise when a bit of space is needed to breath individually.

Again, we looked at how do we set these boundaries when we don’t feel great?  One thing that we looked at was simply how we use body language.

We looked at how to overcome some fears connected to social anxiety by disputing some of our beliefs e.g ‘People will think I’m weird’ or ‘If they really knew about me they wouldn’t like me’.

Finally we looked at ‘What could you be brave enough to step out and try?’ This could be going somewhere new, or trying out chatting to someone new, for example a shopkeeper.

Posted in Weekly Blog

‘Feel better when I’m dancin’

Another Zumba session had been requested by the Choose Life Group, so this week we danced, and shimmied and laughed while wiggling. The Zumba website cites a few articles and studies showing the benefits of dance connected with physical and mental health, they are all contained in the following link.  Click here to see the amazing health benefits associated with dancing.

If you do not feel so confident about dance moves, our most basic move of putting one foot in front of the other in the form of walking has tremendous benefits.  The NHS recommend that 30 minutes a day, five days a week can make you healthier and happier.  Click here for more details.

If you are interested in the therapeutic benefits of dance, you may be interested to read the following article from the Zumba website by a psychotherapist/Zumba instructor:

Meet Leoni Epiphaniou. The Boston resident has been a psychotherapist for over 20 years, helping hundreds of clients deal with stress, anxiety, traumatic events, depression, and so much more. As if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, Leoni also has a side job – she’s been a licensed Zumba® Instructor for the last 5 years. If you think her two career paths are not connected, think again.

“My passion for therapy and for dance go hand in hand,” says Leoni. “Exercise, especially dance, allows one to let go and achieve a deeper layer of healing that is difficult to do with talk therapy alone.”

Because of this finding, Leoni recommends group exercise…She firmly believes that movement is correlated with good health, while stagnancy leads to disease.

“There’s a magic that happens when you’re moving around,” says Leoni. “You may not even be aware of it, but learning a new choreography and being in the moment enables your mind to interrupt negative thought patterns. And that’s where healing begins.”

Many clients reach a point where stress, anxiety, and emotions become too overwhelming. There are a number of reasons why Zumba classes create a perfect environment for getting rid of emotional stress.

  • It’s easy to do. If you let go and have fun with it, it’s an opportunity to get in touch with your inner child or [playfulness].  Dance is a great way to lift your body to an open, optimistic posture, which is the ideal gateway into brighter mental landscapes.
  • There’s a social connection, which is beneficial because of the camaraderie that occurs. Unlike treadmills or running, which are solo activities, Zumba classes promote interaction with others, which can lead to improved confidence.
  • Mindfulness. When you allow yourself to zoom into the present moment to feel the beat, learn a routine, and lose yourself in movement and dance, there is no anxiety about what is in the past or about what lies ahead. That focus on the here and now helps to break focus from negative thought patterns and cultivates relaxation, positivity and awareness, which leads to optimum functioning, energy and health.

“The Zumba program is so much more than a way to get in physical shape,” says Leoni. “The joy and the actual mind shift that my clients experience after taking classes are little miracles that I get to witness every day.”

Ready to fill your prescription?…Warning: Zumba classes may cause extreme optimism, confidence, weight loss, and permanent smiling.

So, finally, here’s to dancing to bring out your inner child


Posted in Weekly Blog

The Meaning of Mindfulness


Today we explored what people understand by ‘Mindfulness’ and their experiences of it.  Some people knew nothing about it, others had experienced it in a Buddist context and others had experienced the ‘Mindful Raisin’ exercise.  Sounds intriguing?  People had sat with raisins and considered what they look like, sound like, smell like and taste like!!! Being mindful seems to be about being aware of the present moment and taking notice of everyday events.  Being aware in this way can help us in a number of ways, it can slow us down, help us appreciate things more and help us respond better and do less things we regret…it can even turn the mundane chore of washing up into a sensual aromatic experience!  We had a go at some mindful breathing as a group exercise which was relaxing, and we had a discussion about the difference between mindful thoughts and the place of feeling suicidal and racing, horrible, despairing and agitated thoughts-could mindfulness help?  It was discussed that if we become well practiced at mindful thinking, we may have trained our brains enough to help slow us down a bit in a crisis.

Food for thought…so if you think it would be helpful to wash up mindfully…read on, the article below is an extract from

Read This Mindfulness Passage Before Washing Your Dishes…

In the case of washing dishes, researchers from Florida State University (FSU) had 51 students read either a “descriptive” dishwashing passage or a “mindfulness” dishwashing passage prior to carrying out the chore. The mindfulness message read, in part, as follows:3

While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes. This means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly. Why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point.

The fact that I am standing there and washing is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.”

The study’s lead author noted a particular interest in how the mundane activities in life could be “used to promote a mindful state and, thus, increase overall sense of well-being.”

And it turned out that by washing dishes mindfully – focusing on the smell of the soap, the feeling of the warm water, and touching the dishes – led to significant improvements in well-being.4

Specifically, the mindful group increased their feelings of inspiration by 25 percent while lowering their level of nervousness by 27 percent.5 The “descriptive” control group experienced no such benefits.

The implications of the study are vast, as it suggests applying mindfulness to virtually any common activity might serve as a simple way to reduce stress and improve your mental health.

So there you go, the next time you are washing dishes that old feeling of it being a chore may gave in to feelings of a much more pleasurable experience!