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Trying Yoga

So with yoga seeming to be very much on trend with yoga centres springing up everywhere and the group already enjoying breathing exercises where we connect with the breath to our bodies, we thought we would explore this a little more and even experiment. It is not clear as to whether yoga is ancient or modern, some say it is a practise which is thousands or years old originating in India, and others say it is a form of Scandinavian gymnastics originating last century which became very popular in India. Either way many people are benefiting in a number of ways from this form of exercise. Physically, yoga can increase flexibility, muscle strength and tone, it can help to improve respiration, energy and vitality. It may help with metabolism and weight reduction. It can help cardio and circulatory health improving athletic performance and strengthening which can help to protect from injury.

Yoga is reported to benefit mental health by bringing bodily awareness, enabling people to notice stress, anxiety and tension. Therefore the exercises can provide stress relief, relief of muscle tension, reduce strain and inflammation, calm and centre the nervous system and a sharpening of attention and concentration.

So with so many benefits what’s not to like?

There are a number of apps to take you through yoga poses. We downloaded a free trial and as a group experimented with quite a gentle 5 minute work out which was partially seated, and used a chair.

All in all this was quite a relaxed session for the group in beginning to introduce people to yoga should they wish to attend a class somewhere for any number of the listed benefits, not least having a social activity.

Below is a video demonstrating some more yoga poses.

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Health and Nutrition

In this group we revisited a topic we have looked at in previous sessions.  We began by chatting about what people noticed about what happened to their relationship with food depending on their mood.  In general people agreed that when they felt well they ate better, and when they ate better they felt better.  Healthy eating seemed to increase with self-esteem and again vice-versa.  When we are tired we notice that we may use caffeine or sugar as a pick me up, and when bored eating can become habitual, ‘eating for the sake of it’.  We also spoke about how food may be a helpful structure in a day.

We explored the concept of comfort eating and again, many noticed that in periods of depression or anxiety they would comfort eat, though conversely for others the opposite occurred and they would eat less, or even stop eating altogether.

This did put us then more in the direction of talking a little about eating disorders when eating becomes a mechanism for control ‘because I can’, whether that is overeating or under eating.  Eating disorder may also be a way of managing emotional pain, a form of self-harm, or as a punishment of self-by not eating well if one feels like they don’t deserve to care for self.

We looked at the list of essential nutrients again given to us by Steve Turnbull on his visit to us in 2017.  What we learned was that it seems that a healthy microbiome for a gut is fostered by much variety in our diet, less starch and sugar, more fiber and less processed food.

Group members did talk about all the confusing messages from the media, for example, eggs are reported to be good for you one day and not the next etc. What does seem to be a consistent message though is the less processed the better, so the closer we keep it to natural and made by us personally may be a guide to healthier eating and cooking. As with most things, balance is helpful, and those little dudes in our gut really seem to enjoy variety.

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Dating and Sense of Self

Why are we attracted to the people we are attracted to? The group discussed how this was due to multiple factors, an initial physical attraction endorsed by shared interests and core values-not too similar, as this is not stimulating or too opposite as this might be too uncomfortable. Shared experiences also created attraction, along with many subconscious factors and feeling that we are a match with a particular individual. Some stated that they always chose the wrong person and others sensed attraction when there was a ‘click’ or made a connection.

We began talking about how is it that we give out messages which attract sometimes before we have even spoken to someone. There is a theory that 93% of communication is non-verbal, from Professor Albert Mehrabian. He theorised that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken. Some group members observed that there are ‘types’; Passive, Assertive or Aggressive and due to past experiences we are drawn to, and draw towards us those of a certain type. This perhaps fits with attachment theory whereby we are drawn to patterns with which we are familiar. The following article by ‘The School of Life’ suggest three components for why we have particular types and the guiding direction of our attractions which you can read about here: ‘How to find love’.

We then turned our attention to maintaining a sense of self in dating. We discussed that relationships sometimes just happen to us rather than it being something we seriously think about and what we would like in a partner or from a relationship like we might do when considering buying a house or applying for a job. Group members discussed that they wanted was equality and a mutual appreciation and respect for one another, to feel important to someone, to share humour and to both bring and contribute to the relationship overall, whilst acknowledging that different individuals need more support than the other with various things at different times. We lose a sense of self when we change to become what the other person wants us to be.

At the beginning of a relationship it can feel stressful and confusing to know the balance between ‘being myself’ and perhaps curtailing some over-eager behaviours, and therein is a minefield of rules…how often should I text? How soon should I reply? When should I say ‘I love you’?

Returning to our earlier discussion of why we are attracted to the people we are, we discussed the theory of attachment leading us to pick partners where patterns of attachment are familiar to us as they are reminiscent of early childhood experiences. We had watched the following video by
Alain de Botton which first inspired the topic on dating and sense of self as a group topic.

On a more lighthearted note, you may enjoy the outcomes of some of these chat up lines overheard by bartenders.

What is most important to remember above all is that we all deserve to be treated well, even if you have experienced bad relationships in the past. Remembering this can reinforce the importance of valuing yourself in meeting the right partner.

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Emotional Dilemmas

The group had requested a session on emotional dilemmas, so we looked at a few ethical dilemma scenarios in small groups. Situations that required thinking about breaking medical confidentiality, or discovering your friend’s wife is having an affair and such like. It was interesting to see that many group members had different ideas from each other about what they would do in the given scenarios. This started to show us that we all form our values and morals differently; maybe from culture, or how our family taught us, our own experience of consequences, a particular philosophy or faith that we follow, or by a case by case basis. It also showed us that there is often not a right or a wrong…however because ethical situations can evoke a lot of powerful emotions we can feel intensely that there is a right or wrong. We also noticed that actually we make a lot of assumptions when presented with a dilemma, so in dilemmas we may well sometimes need to gather a bit more information before deciding what we should do.

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Hopes and Goals 2019

It is about a month since this group met together before Christmas, so it was good to reconnect with each other, find out how the Christmas break had been, and to look forward to our hopes and goals for 2019.

We started by assessing how we felt about the different areas of our lives by completing a lifestyle balance pie. People made the segments personal to them and looked at areas they were happy with and areas where they might like a bit more to be happening or to feel more satisfied.

A few people had some personality goals, in that they had embraced some challenges over the last couple of years in realising that they had made huge strides in becoming more confident to try new things or to be assertive, so there were some plans afoot to continue with this type of growth and personal development. For some people that might be more awareness of ways of thinking and having a different perspective on things that currently feel a bit stuck or defeated. Some people were looking at rebuilding certain areas of life such as career, study or wellbeing and have implemented a 5 year plan. Others were encouraged by recognising that they are further on towards their goal than a year ago and just to continue. Thinking about managing self in relationships and dating was featuring so we actually have a group dedicated to this in a couple of weeks.

Overall, people were feeling empowered to balance their lives, manage finances, increase faith, make time for intentional family time, feel more organised and to engage in purposeful activity, reduce fear and get out more. It was encouraging to note that people had been sustaining changes over the year and maybe sometimes it is more realistic to formulate hopes and plans as we all know that New Year’s Resolutions can be a bit transient…

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Building Self-Worth

Building self-worth

Building self-worth is a topic that had been requested by the group, so first of all we chatted about what was contributing to low self-worth. Common among the group were themes of feeling a failure, and therefore not trying new things as there wasn’t much point or purpose and feeling undeserving.

Together we went through a discussion of how to build self worth using tips from Psychology Today and Ted ideas.

The first is to be mindful, to build awareness of your self-critic and negative self-talk.  This is a recurring topic in the group, we realise that our minds are very clever at protecting us by always looking out for trouble, but too easily we see it within ourselves which isn’t helpful to us, but the more we are aware and have techniques to deal with this thinking, the better equipped we are to build self-worth.  It is good to remember that these are thoughts, not facts. Remember: you are not your circumstance, this was a powerful concept for some people who realised that they had they potential to define themselves by their family situation or health circumstances, so it is empowering to realise this is not who we are.

Secondly we talked about changing the story; Whose version of the story about you are you listening to? Some people discussed how situations they had previously seen as a failure they could now see opened up very different avenues for them in life, more of a change of direction and a different story than a failure.

It’s important to understand and choose your own story, for some the idea of being the hero of your own story is a transforming way to navigate and anticipate life’s events emphasising the control we have and the choices we hold over how things go if we can visualise ourselves doing well or differently than we may have coped previously.

Put some realistic positive affirmations in there and challenge other voices-Why should the prosecutor have all the evidence!

be the heroScreenshot_20180825-211523_Firefox

Thirdly, don’t compare and despair! Avoid the comparison trap and don’t fall down the rabbit hole! rabbitThis can lead to negative self-talk, anxiety and negative feelings, and generalisations e.g. ‘If I fail, I am a failure’. From the group discussion, this seems like a popular belief to reduce self-worth, so learning the difference between failures being part of life but not an identity is crucial.

 

This is enhanced by the fourth tip, to ‘Channel your inner Rock Star’.  We each have our own strengths, no-one is successful at everything, therefore it is important to develop and recognise your own strengths, that’s what makes you special and unique. Einstein said:

“Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish for it’s  ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it is stupid”.

It’s important to be realistic with our aspirations too, for example, I’m likely to satisfyingly succeed at improving my swimming fitness to 20 lengths a day, but to aim for gold at the next Olympics might just cause me more upset and stress than it’s worth.

This final and fifth tip we really like: Organise your day around self-care.  We considered how we generally try and slot this stuff in, and what would it look like to actually prioritise the following:

soul happy

  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Creativity
  • Sleep
  • Relaxation
  • Fun
  • Social time
  • Do unto others and self-compassion
  • Be of service
  • Do what gives you a meaningful sense of purpose
  • Forgive-reduces bitterness and resentment which leads to negative thoughts

“The more someone does something in their life that they can be proud of, the easier it is for them to recognise their worth”.

 

We did an exercise where each person wrote a list of some of their perceived strengths and perceived weaknesses-but they had to draw a heart around both of them. People actually saw how their weaknesses could also be strengths, and vice versa, like Geoffrey Bain, an occasional guest to our group, says, bright spots have dark spots.