We started by identifying what is difference? The group came up with that difference is something that stands out, something out of your comfort zone or familiarity, it can be empowering, exciting, it may be something which is unexpected, breaking free of conformity, it may be different attitudes or the first experience of something.
Next we looked at ‘how do I feel different, and how does that affect me’? Here people were able to talk about how they felt stigmatised due to their mental health and feared rejection if they were honest about it. Other people referred to how their gender was perceived or assumptions made about it and how this could be frustrating and can leave people feeling dis empowered and almost having to prove their identity.
Finally we talked about how we respond to other people’s differences. Some people avoid or ignore this so that there is no conflict. We talked about how sometimes we overcompensate because while culture is in a state of flux of how certain groups are identified and what is appropriate or not, we get worried about offending people resulting in us going over the score (like positive discrimination) and we can accidentally patronise people.
By the end we agreed it is important to keep listening to difference and to just ask people and be curious about how they would like to be seen and treated and hopefully as we educate ourselves and build relationships, ultimately the relationship will be important, the rest won’t matter, it’s just what we are housed in.
While constructing a group programme we try and make the content as varied and diverse as possible. When we do group sessions on art and crafts we find that it creates a real sense of ‘freedom’ for members to engage in their own creativity. This setting also seems to make people more relaxed to chat.
This is really interesting article from mindfood.com on the benefits art and crafts.
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.
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.
Today’s group focussed on how people deal with the benefit system and more specifically, ‘Work Capability Assessment’ interviews. At group sessions we often hear of how the current system invokes strong feelings of anxiety and sheer terror. With this in mind we thought it would be good to have a look at the different processes involved and the options people have.
Below is an example of the different stages involved upon receiving assessment letter;
Attend ‘Work Capability Assessment’ interview
You receive a letter from the DWP* informing you that you are not being awarded benefit.
You disagree with their decision so respond by sending a ‘Mandatory consideration letter’ to inform the DWP* of your reasons for disagreeing with their decision to see if they will reconsider.
If the response from the DWP* is that they are upholding their original decision you then have the option to appeal it and have your case taken to at an independent tribunal.
If you are feeling anxious it is so important to seek support.
Group members felt that having someone to help support them in filling in forms was extremely beneficial and relievied some of their anxiety. With no support it can literally feel like a real life or death situation with the looming uncertainty of having no income to survive. That is why it is so useful to have supportive people around you to help provide some hope for your future.
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.
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.
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.