Happiness

All suffering is caused by desire and craving – The Second Nobel Truth, Buddhism

There is no need to be a Buddhist to understand this simple truth. There seems to an innate drive in all of us to want more, whether it is nice food, time with loved ones or material possessions. There is always more to be had. And while we desire more we start to generate negative emotions, a slight feeling of missing out, perhaps, or the full-on envy of another.

The reason for mentioning the second noble truth is, simplicity. In a world where complexity of life is, for many, an overwhelming burden, perhaps simplifying life in some way is the best route to increased happiness. It can be the difference between endlessly chasing big goals that are no more tangible than a rainbow, and seeking out little pleasures on a daily basis. All the evidence suggests the latter will increase subjective happiness, whereas the former will more likely add to negative feelings. It’s important to remember that no single achievement will leave you happy for the rest of your life. So why is this?

Research by Professor Sonia Lyubomirsky states individual happiness is affected by three factors. The first is our DNA. Lyubomirsky states 50% of our happiness relates to a genetic set-point which we are born with and cannot change. The next factor is our circumstances, our career, house, family and car etc. These are the things many people strive to improve to increase their happiness. Unfortunately, these circumstances only contribute a measly 10% of our happiness! The remaining 40% is derived from thoughts and behaviors. How do we explain the events in life – positively or negatively. Is a stretching situation a challenge or something to be avoided?

This is the exciting factor because here is where we can make a real difference to our subjective happiness. And the best bit; it doesn’t cost money, take years of effort or require you to be anybody other than yourself. Start simple with some of the below exercises:

1. Jot in Your Journal – Over a period of 4 weeks, keep a journal listing three new things each day for which you are grateful. Doing this over time trains your brain to start spotting the good things in life, prioritising them over the negative. You can also look back on your journal when you’re feeling a little down.

2. Mindful Moment – Set some time aside to do something you really enjoy, such as taking a walk, having a coffee in the garden or enjoying a lovely, hot bath. Really savour this event, thinking about your senses and the details you experience while you complete it. Focusing on these details brings you fully into the here-and-now and reminds you to appreciate tasks you may not usually have time for or complete on autopilot.

3. Act of Kindness – Giving someone a compliment, holding a door open for someone, making someone a cup of tea to cheer them up: all of these actions can reduce stress, boost our immune systems and release lots of feel-good emotions. Not only that, happiness is contagious! Even just a smile can brighten someone’s day!

4. Be Nurtured by Nature – When was the last time you went for a walk and enjoyed being outside? As well as the obvious benefits that fresh air and exercise can offer, being in nature can reduce negative emotions, such as fear and stress, and increase happiness. Even just 30 minutes of walking can have a significant impact on your feelings and wellbeing!

5. Re-connect with a Relative – Making time to phone or text someone you haven’t spoken to for a while, either a friend or relative, can be a joyful job, giving you time to catch up, reconnect and check in with someone you care about. Our busy lives can mean that communication with loved ones can be limited to a quick ‘like’ on Facebook, but making the time to really speak to someone and maintain connections with people can keep things in perspective, offer essential support to both of you and is key to a happy and healthy life.

6. Down your Devices – turn off all of your electronic devices (phones, tablets, laptops). Without these distractions, you may find time to do something completely different, such as cooking for enjoyment, chatting with a friend or just giving yourself a break. Some adults spend as much as 24 hours a week using social media. Imagine what you could do with that time if you have some device downtime!

A Dose of Calm: A Note from our Director

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A Dose of Calm: A Note from our Director

When the unexpected happens ………. How to maintain positive Mental Health during challenging times

30.03.2020

When the unexpected happens ………. How to maintain positive Mental Health during challenging times

Remote Reassurance: Caring for your Employees’ Mental Wellbeing During Self-isolation and Remote Working

30.03.2020

Remote Reassurance: Caring for your Employees’ Mental Wellbeing During Self-isolation and Remote Working

Mindfulness

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the action of focusing awareness completely on the present moment. It is about observing and acknowledging current feelings, thoughts, emotions and physical sensations in a calm and almost detached way that in fact allows you to be much more aware and connected to yourself. Consider how often you give yourself the time and space to just stop and think, to be aware of that exact moment of the here and now, of the sensation of how you breathe or the sounds you can hear. Becoming more aware of your present moments can ground you and calm you, allowing you to experience simple things that you may have begun to take for granted or stopped noticing, something that is so easy to do when you are caught up in the whirlwind of everyday life.

Mindfulness Tips

Some people find mindfulness challenging because their mind is constantly crowded in with questions, thoughts and plans. When your days are so busy and bustling, being able to switch off for just a few minutes can seem impossible, but the benefits really are worth it. Not only does it help you to enjoy part of life that you may have been missing while on ‘autopilot’, it also allows you to become aware of your thoughts and emotions, to experience the present moment and to take a break. Here’s some tips for mindfulness that you can try today:

The Here and Now

How often have you taken just five minutes sit in silence and focus on your immediate surroundings: the tick of the clock, the rustle of the breeze as it wafts from an open window or the hum of the computer. As we dash from one task to another, through each item on our to-do list, we miss the things that are happening every minute of every day. Stopping to become aware of these things engages you in the here and now and gives you some breathing space from thoughts and scheduling.

Make Time and Keep Time

Planning a mindful moment into your day is as important as planning in time for lunch or a toilet break. Although it might feel like you can’t spare that time because of all of the different things you have to do, in fact this time can calm and settle you in an otherwise frantic day, making you more effective and refreshed to pick your schedule back up afterwards. Perhaps the journey to or from work might give you an opportunity to do this or even five minutes as you lay in bed at night time before you go to sleep. Whenever works for you is fine, but do make sure you make the time.

Full Body Scan

A really effective way to practise mindfulness is to do a ‘full body scan’. This is where you start at the top of your head and work down your body, focusing on the feelings and sensations as you move through each part. Actively work through each body part in turn from closing your eyes, relaxing your jaw, feeling the sensation of deep breaths expanding your stomach as you breathe in, becoming aware of the tingle and throb of your fingers as blood circulates through your body right down to the toes cushioned in your shoes. This awareness and observation of your body will calm and ground you, giving you the chance to be aware and conscious of yourself.

Thought trains

Many people can find thoughts, worries and ideas swarming in their minds, preventing their concentration and focus on mindfulness. Mindfulness isn’t about dismissing these thoughts, but observing them before letting them go. A good way to think of this is imagining thoughts coming into your mind like a train that pulls into a station, pausing then departing again. During mindfulness, thoughts will come into your mind, but you don’t have to indulge in the thoughts, you can let the train depart without getting on board.

Taking Time for You

Some people practise yoga or go walking as a form of relaxation and a time to focus on some things other than work; others find a bubble bath and a glass of wine at the end of a long day gives them time to switch off. Finding something that works for you is important and making time to listen to your body and take a moment to pause is essential to make sure your body and mind have the time to rest and rejuvenate.

Remember that mindfulness is about taking a moment to be aware and engaged with your body and mind. Make sure you actively practise self-care by listening to your needs and not allowing them to become drowned out by the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The Importance of Sleep in building Resilience

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A Dose of Calm: A Note from our Director

When the unexpected happens ………. How to maintain positive Mental Health during challenging times

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When the unexpected happens ………. How to maintain positive Mental Health during challenging times

Remote Reassurance: Caring for your Employees’ Mental Wellbeing During Self-isolation and Remote Working

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Remote Reassurance: Caring for your Employees’ Mental Wellbeing During Self-isolation and Remote Working

Don’t let stress ruin your relationship

Here is a scenario common in many relationships; both partners work in stressful jobs and then come home to the pressure of being a parent and running a home. This situation can often lead to arguments, intolerable frustration and, finally, splitting up. So what are the main pitfalls to avoid if you want to keep your relationship healthy?

Well, it was reported in the Telegraph this week that a study conducted by the Florida State University College of Business concluded, after interviewing 400 working couples, that the main thing to avoid is competing with each other about who had the worst day. This makes sense. It’s something we have all done at some time, become frustrated by the self-pity of another and retorted by explaining how bad things can really get … outlining a day in your life!

Of course, most of us would struggle to remember a time when this ever ended happily. Instead it just leads to more arguments, more frustration and more chance of splitting up. If you have children, it’s also very upsetting for them, not to mention unfair.

It is important to offer support to each other, to know when the other has had a particularly bad day and forgo your own need for a bit of sympathy. In fact, you will more than likely get a lot more support back when you need it the most if you’re prepared to give it to others. If you are going to survive the rigours of work life then you must have a place where you look forward to going, a place where you will get support when you most need it, and a place where you can enjoy your time away from work. This place should be your home.

The study also concluded that couples with the highest levels of support at home were more satisfied with their marriage, were more likely to say that they have a good relationship with their colleagues and concentrated better at work. They were also less likely to say they were tired after work, feel guilty about neglecting their family and were less critical of their spouse and children.

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A Dose of Calm: A Note from our Director

When the unexpected happens ………. How to maintain positive Mental Health during challenging times

30.03.2020

When the unexpected happens ………. How to maintain positive Mental Health during challenging times

Remote Reassurance: Caring for your Employees’ Mental Wellbeing During Self-isolation and Remote Working

30.03.2020

Remote Reassurance: Caring for your Employees’ Mental Wellbeing During Self-isolation and Remote Working

Needles, but no drugs …

In a society where a large number of men struggle with mental illness in silence because they find it hard to express how they are feeling, it’s always nice to see new forms of help. The traditionally considered non-masculine past-time of knitting is gaining popularity with men thanks to celebrity backing from the likes of Russell Crowe, David Arquette and Ryan Gosling.

NHS studies has found that a couple of hours spent knitting woolly items can help reduce stress, fight depression, improve mental illness recovery, boost self-esteem, aid recovery from addiction and help you to be more mindful. It’s no wonder men-only knitting classes are starting to crop up as more and more men are picking up a pair of needles.

I wonder if any organisations have considered this? Some type of workplace knitting challenge could be made fun, open to everyone and would be cheap to set up. It could even be designed to support a charitable cause!

Just a thought …

A Dose of Calm: A Note from our Director

30.03.2020

A Dose of Calm: A Note from our Director

When the unexpected happens ………. How to maintain positive Mental Health during challenging times

30.03.2020

When the unexpected happens ………. How to maintain positive Mental Health during challenging times

Remote Reassurance: Caring for your Employees’ Mental Wellbeing During Self-isolation and Remote Working

30.03.2020

Remote Reassurance: Caring for your Employees’ Mental Wellbeing During Self-isolation and Remote Working

I never went to a female suicide

As we approach mental health week I couldn’t help reflecting on why I became involved in the business of personal wellness. See, I’ve always been interested in physical health and maintained a steady effort over the years to keep a good level of fitness. For many years however, I ignored my mental health believing I wasn’t one of the ‘weak ones’ who had to worry about such things. I was eventually proved wrong, of course.

Through my own experiences of dealing with mental health and, in particular, supporting and managing officers through extreme trauma I became more aware of the often silent and besieging effects of mental health problems, particularly on men.

I highlight the cause of men because so much of this problem is hidden. Men often feel unable to reach out for help and often allow things to build up, becoming victims of their own masculinity. To illustrate my point: in my police career I attended a number of tragic suicides; I know of at least four officers who took their own lives and so did a member of my own family. Here’s the thing, they were all men – I never actually attended a female suicide. Of course females do take their own lives, and when they do it is every bit as tragic. My own experience however simply highlights how much this is a bigger problem for men.

Here are some startling statistics:

  • In 2013 8 out of 10 suicides in the UK were men
  • Suicide is the biggest cause of death in men under the age of 45
  • In the last decade there has been a marked increase in male suicides
  • As many as 4 in 10 men have contemplated suicide at some time or other

There are often complex issues leading to the act of suicide but one of the simplest and most effective steps a person or organisation can take to help reduce this problem is to promote awareness. Through increasing awareness we can help reduce the stigma surrounding men’s mental health and make it easier for men to share their problems and receive appropriate support.

Remember all men are at risk of mental illness. Many men never show any obvious signs other than appearing a little down or distant. And those who appear the strongest are often most at risk as they seem to go through life with the weight of the world on their shoulders!

If you would like to know more about Mental Health Awareness week from the 16th to 22nd May you’ll find some interesting resources here

Barrie Penrose

A Dose of Calm: A Note from our Director

30.03.2020

A Dose of Calm: A Note from our Director

When the unexpected happens ………. How to maintain positive Mental Health during challenging times

30.03.2020

When the unexpected happens ………. How to maintain positive Mental Health during challenging times

Remote Reassurance: Caring for your Employees’ Mental Wellbeing During Self-isolation and Remote Working

30.03.2020

Remote Reassurance: Caring for your Employees’ Mental Wellbeing During Self-isolation and Remote Working