October 10th is World Mental Health Day, and this years focus is on suicide prevention.
Suicide is twice as common as Homicide and is the second biggest cause of death in people under 30.
In todays episode I hope to provide some insight into how to spot suicidal ideation in friends and family, and hopefully open up some conversations so as to prevent the worst happening.
One question that I get asked quite often is "What's the difference between a fear and a phobia?"
In short, a fear of something is fairly rational, even if we might think that there's no need for us to fear it, the fear still makes some sense. If someone has a fear of public speaking that makes sense, although what there probably fearing is rejection from their peers but it still makes sense.
Whereas a phobia...
Ever heard of The looking-glass self?
The looking-glass self is a concept created by sociologist Charles Horton Cooley back in 1902. It states that rather than a person's sense of self growing out of their own internal perceptions it instead grows out of the interactions with and the perceptions of other people.
In a nutshell it can be summed up with the following phrase “I am not what I think I am and I am not what you think I am; I am what I think that you think I am.”
Nudging and avoiding a nudge is quite important. If you've never heard that phrase outside of a Monty Python sketch you will do now. Because to nudge, in psychology, means to subtly influence someones behaviour, often without them being aware of it, by altering the environment slightly and is surprisingly successful.
Introversion has been on my mind a lot lately as I've had quite a few clients who are introverts but don't fully understand it and think that there's something wrong with them.
So today I want to go into a bit of detail about introversion to help you understand yourself better if you are one, and help you to understand others better if you're not.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and because of that I have an extra episode this month for you!
I met up with Bobby Temps today of The Mental Podcast to talk about what we can all do to begin the process of destigmatising mental health.
He's a great guy, have a listen.
I've been thinking about this topic for a long time and I've been a bit wary of talking about it because what I mean by "it's the thought that counts" is that it's our own thinking that counts towards whether an experience is a good one a bad one or simply just is. And with some really quite extreme situations too. But I don't want it to come across as if it's our own fault if we feel bad because something happened to us. It belittles someones experiences to say "Oh you're traumatised are you? Try thinking differently about it!" Because that's not quite how the brain works.
Regularly clients will tell me that they've had frightening bizarre thoughts, sometimes about hurting, or even killing, someone that they care about.
Odd as it may seem this is something that everyone experiences, but it doesn't really get talked about for fear of other people thinking we're strange or even dangerous. So I want to put your mind at rest that if you have thoughts like this, you need to remember that they're just thoughts, they're not reality.
If you Google the words "how to be more productive" you get 187 million results. Interestingly that's the same number of results as "how to learn Romanian." And although everyone learns in different ways we all know the answer to both of those questions.
If you want to learn a new language, you need to read it, listen to it and absorb it until you understand it. And the key to that is simply to practise.
And the answer to how to get more things done is simply to "do more things."
But is everything really that easy?
Can it be so black and white?
It's often said that optimism isn't all it's cracked up to be. That expecting the best only leads to disappointment, and I can understand why but I think it's important to see the difference between expectations and goals.
It's a new year!
And for a hypnotherapist who specialises in helping people to make changes in their life people will often say to me things like "I bet you'll be busy at work in January then, all the New Years resolutions."
Yet, it's nothing like February, when all those that have tried to make some changes are a month in and can feel themselves giving up and need help.
Which raises questions doesn't it? Because if the changes you make are something you actually want, then why would we feel like giving up?
Have you ever met someone with a wooden leg? Not a real wooden leg, but a metaphorical one?
In the 60’s, a psychiatrist called Eric Berne, turned some common problematic psychological processes into what he called “Games People Play” One of which he called the wooden leg game.
Imagine a man with a wooden leg who has used it as an explanation for why his life is unfulfilled all of his life, he would often say “If it wasn’t for this wooden leg, I could have been an athlete.” Or when he complains that he’s unemployed he says “What do you expect from a guy with one leg?”
The wooden leg game can hold us back from enjoying life and feeling fulfilled, and there are many things that can be your wooden leg. People will say…
Depression is a huge topic. It’s a big problem in the 21st Century and to try and understand it by listening to a single podcast episode probably isn’t going to be enough.
Even 4 years at medical school wouldn’t do that.
But I hope that with today’s episode I can help you to gain a bit of extra insight into it and I encourage you to read up on it if it’s something that you feel you need to understand more about.
Imagine you're invited to a friend’s house for a party and you find yourself chatting to a total stranger. If they were to say to you "So, what do you do?" What's the first thing that pops into your mind?
Go on, what do you do? Do you swim? do you play cricket? Do you party?
Of course, we all know that what they really mean is "What do you do for a living?" It may well be simply small talk just to get a conversation going but what someone does for a living is the usually the first place people tend to go when learning about someone else. And I think it's worth questioning whether that’s appropriate, because there's more to us than our job.
Many people feel a need to be unique, to be different from everyone else but that shouldn’t be at the expense of our sense of belonging. If we’re missing belongingness in our life then we can often feel as if we’re insignificant, unimportant and may as well crawl under a rock to die. Sure, be different, you’re life is your own, and any self esteem boost you get from your uniqueness can be used to help you recognise that actually, we’re all different, we’re all unique.
Is there something you want to achieve that you know is going to take a while? Maybe something that has many steps, such as getting fitter or writing a dissertation?
If so then you need to be aware that doing anything that brings you closer to the end result is better than doing nothing at all. That might seem obvious, but it’s not uncommon for people to be really hard on ourselves for not putting in maximum effort.
Despite their setbacks and failures some people seem to have the ability to brush things off and bounce back almost stronger than before, they seem to have a grit and determination not to let bad experiences affect them. Is this something than can be learned?
If we’ve hurt someone then I think it’s probably healthy to feel bad about it, to wish that we’d behaved differently and to want to make amends.
But what isn’t healthy is continually beating yourself up over it or to think of yourself as a bad person because of what happened. Feeling bad because you hurt someone is guilt. But feeling as if you’re a bad person is shame, and they’re a bit different.
Guilt you can do something with, you can learn from it. You can apologise, make amends and move on. But shame? There’s not really anywhere to go with that, and I think it’s important that we recognise that good people can do bad things, just like bad people can do good things.
Did you know that if you're physically tired then you will estimate hills as steeper than they actually are? And that a place in the distance is further away? But did you also know that it's not just our physical resources that influence our perception of the world?
There’s an annoying quirk to our psychology that means we can easily be drawn towards the exact thing that we’re trying to avoid, as the old saying goes 'be careful what you look for, because you just might find it.' Because the alternative means that you might have made yourself part of the problem, rather than the solution.
Making decisions can be hard, and not just with the big things in life.
Sometimes even things that should be insignificant in the grand scheme of things can paralyse us. So how do we get around it?
Todays episode is about just that. Getting a better perspective on these things and even the bigger ones too.
Although I’m not a relationship coach or a couple therapist a lot of clients will come to one to one therapy and discuss their relationships, with many of them saying things such as “I don’t know what a real relationship is supposed to feel like!”
I think that in a society that looks at so many things in life as disposable it can be very hard to think of something in your life as permanent, and may even be a bit scary for a lot of people. Which is why so many clients say to me that they feel trapped when they’re in a relationship yet they feel lonely and insignificant when they’re not.
I was asked in an interview recently that if I had to choose one thing, what would I say is the most effective way of boosting happiness?
In order to answer it I needed to think about all the concepts and exercises that I wrote about in my book to see if there was a common ingredient or theme. What I found is that pretty much everything I wrote about needed a foundation of appreciation, of gratitude in order for them to be of any help.
Have a think about the following question for a moment.
“Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. Suppose we say that the top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you, and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time, assuming that the higher the step the better you feel about your life, and the lower the step the worse you feel about it? Which step comes closest to the way you feel?”
This question is asked once per year by Gallup, the famous poll company. They ask a thousand people in each of around 150 countries from around the world to work out how happy each country is on average.
Gallup don’t just ask this one question though, there are many more. They ask about their relationship status, how many children they have, how many friends they have. They find out how much time people spend driving to work and whether or not they mow their own lawn or get the kid down the road to do it for a fiver.
There are many other organisations that undertake similar research and if you take all of the data from all of these different sources and stick them into a computer you can look for correlations, so we can see what influences us for the better and what influences us for the worse. It makes some very interesting reading and some of it genuinely surprising.
When someone says Be a man, what do you think of?
Or do you think manning up means to take responsibility for your emotions or accept mistakes and move on?
The idea of “Manning Up” seems to mean something different to everyone. YouTube channel Cut created some word association videos once and one of the phrases they asked a group of men to respond to was Be A Man, and it was really quite interesting to see the variances. They edited it together so that the youngest were at the beginning of the video and the eldest at the end, starting with 5 year olds and ended at aged 50.
The reason this was so interesting to me is because the younger someone was the more similar their responses were. Most of the under 30’s associated being a man with being tough and strong, especially the youngsters.
It wasn’t until they were in their 30’s that they seemed to find their own voice and the closer they got to 50 the more they saw Be A Man as a cliche that shouldn't have any relevance and instead associated manliness with honesty, embracing emotions or trusting themselves and walking their own path.
It reminded me of something that Piers Morgan said during mental health awareness week. It was in response to an article that said that 2 thirds of British adults have experienced mental health problems, which is true but that doesn’t mean that 34 million people are suffering with mental illness all at the same time which the headlines often exaggerate it to, so as to get your attention. But the thing is, rather than acknowledge it as click bait and start a sensible discussion, Piers Morgan made the mistake of saying “What utter nonsense, Man Up Britain” and it started a flurry of almost 2000 replies that gave quite an insight into what people think about mental health.
It might sound daft to some people but gloomy weather does have an impact on our mental health. If its grey on the outside we can easily slip into a grey on the inside feeling, which leads to behaviour that might makes things worse, hiding away from everyone and refusing to leave the so called comforts of home.
Here are my top 5 tips for combatting the winter blues!
The one thing everyone has in common is that we will all in some way be touched by death, whether it’s thoughts about our own demise, or having to deal with someone else’s.
And what’s really important to understand, whether you’re trying to be a supporting friend or you’re a grieving widow, it’s important to understand the rules of grieving, of which there is only one…
Last week I noticed that my Sky TV hard drive box was getting full. There were a lot of satirical news programmes that I hadn’t watched and they were probably out of date. There were documentaries about topics that if I was really that interested in I’d have watched them by now. And it made me question why I’d set them to record in the first place. The conclusion I came to was that it was FOMO
Last week Ant McPartlin spoke out about his struggles with Depression and Anxiety. Making it public because he thinks that it’s important that people going through a rough time ask for help so as to get proper treatment. Great! But he followed it by also saying 'I feel like I have let a lot of people down and for that I am truly sorry.' That’s the part I didn’t like, because...
Presenting a Podcast about how to be positive and enthusiastic when so many people are sad and angry is difficult at the best of times, and last week felt like the worst of times. What good can possibly come from the murder of innocent people?
Being British it’s always a pleasure to see a bit of sunshine, especially this time of year when it’s unexpected, and a few weeks ago we had a weekend where the sun shone and the temperature was the same as it is in the summer.
And, whilst relaxing and watching my son bounce on a trampoline in the garden my wife said to me “If it was always like this, people would be a lot happier.”
My instincts were to agree and I started to nod my head in agreement before stepping back and thinking about it first.
It’s almost Easter already and even though we’ve put the clocks forward it seems like only yesterday when we put them back an hour in the Autumn.
Time flies! I’ve mentioned before that 12 months to a 60 year old will obviously feel 6 times quicker than it does to a 10 year old but there’s also another reason.
Are you following the FA Cup at all?
I’m not a huge fan of football myself, but I know enough that when I see that lower league Sutton United are playing Premiership side Arsenal it’s worth looking up from whatever I’m reading and go “Huh? how did that happen?”.
Now, we all love an underdog story and so it would be amazing to see Sutton United beat Arsenal, it’s the stuff that films are made of!
But the underdog lost. Arsenal beat them 2-0, but the difference in the 2 teams are like George Forman fighting George Formby! It could easily have been 10-0 but Sutton kept their energy levels up and surprised Arsenal with how well they could play.
They walked off the pitch at the end of the day with their heads held high knowing that they did their best.
Political divisiveness often gives rise to a tirade of reasons on social media why the other side is wrong.
With the rise of right wing extremism throughout Europe and the USA there seems to be a lot of people wanting Brexit to fail and Donald Trump to fail as President simply to prove themselves right.
But it’s worth looking at these things with a more positive stance. Whether you think these are good ideas or not we should still want things to work out well.
Deliberately wanting things to fail just so you can be proved right is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. A phrase with a nasty origin that goes back to the year 870 when St. Aebbe the Younger, the Mother Superior of a Scottish monastery, talked her fellow Nuns into disfiguring their faces order to render themselves unattractive to the incoming Viking invaders, so as to protect their chastity.
It worked, the Viking pirates saw the noseless Nuns and were so disgusted by their faces they turned their backs on them. But the Nuns never got much of a chance to high five as the Viking Pirates burnt their Monastery to the ground with them still inside to teach them a lesson. Hey ho.
It’s a new year!
Time to join in with the tradition that every January we draw a line in the sand and decide to do something different with our lives.
Because doing it in November or December just feels wrong!
I have a question for you.
How much of your real life do you reveal to the external world around you?
If someone asks you how you are, do you bombard them with your frustrations about your selfish spouse? Or about how you feel that your life is going by too quickly and there’s a sense of impending doom everywhere you go?
Or do you say “Fine thanks, you?”.
Many people fall for the mistaken belief that being likeable is linked to something innate and unlearned, something you must be born with.
As if it’s linked to how attractive or talented you are.
Yet in reality being likeable is simply a matter of understanding other people, empathy. A skill that can easily be learned.
It sucks being a loser.
Everyone wants to win and it seems to have become built into our culture that failure is not an option.
But it is!
As a 9 month old child how many times would we have fallen over when learning to walk?
How many mistakes did we make when learning to speak?
How many answers did we get wrong in our tests at school?
And how many job applications do we have to send out before even getting an interview, let alone offered a job?
As the old Chinese proverb says “Fall down seven times and get up eight”.
Almost 2000 years ago the man who was to become St Paul wrote that “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character” Nietzsche put it quite well with his phrase “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”.
This process is often referred to as Post Traumatic Growth, the idea that we can grow stronger because of adversity.
Critical Thinking has allowed us to learn that the earth isn’t flat after all, and that it’s definitely older than 4000 years.
It’s meant that Doctors no longer use chicken poo to try and cure baldness or blow tobacco smoke up someones bum in an attempt to cure a hernia.
In today's episode we look at the importance of Critical Thinking, especially in the run up to the EU Referendum.
As Old Bill Shakespeare once said "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so"
In this episode I talk about the importance of distinguishing the meaning from an event that causes emotion and finding a better way of looking at it.
Almost every self help book you read will say something along the lines of "If you can see it, you can be it!"
They tell you about the importance of imagining the end result of your hard work to motivate you to make it happen.
But what if they're all wrong!
A recent study had researchers texting a quick survey 5 times per day asking people a few questions including asking them to rate how they were feeling, how many times they’d used Facebook since the last text and how many times they’d had direct social interaction with people.
They also filled in a questionnaire before and after the 2 week experiment so that they could get a baseline of their satisfaction in life.
What it all showed was that direct interaction with people does not predict any changes in life satisfaction, but using Facebook does.
The researchers were able to predict the life satisfaction levels at the end of the study by analysing how frequently they’d used Facebook. The more people used it the worse they felt the next time they text-messaged them!
Showing that the more they used Facebook over two weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined.
Connecting with people usually pushes the happy buttons in our brain. So what is it about Facebook that causes the opposite.
I think that Facebook gives us glimpses into someone’s world, that is at best filtered and at worst fabricated. So much so that it’s become outside of the norm for someone to post something personal on Facebook which is genuine.
For someone to write on Facebook how depressed they are, how they feel that their relationship is holding them back or that they feel unfulfilled with life is almost unheard of.
Instead people lie and say “Couldn’t be happier, chilling with my perfect man tonight after a great day at the office”
Really?, I don’t think so.
If someone genuinely feels that good, that they wouldn’t be wasting their “perfect chill time” with their partner by posting things on Facebook.
No-one’s holiday pictures include the sickness and diarrhoea, the cockroaches or the drunken fight with pedro the bus driver.
Instead they’ll lie on their back and post a pic of their feet with the sea in the background instead, because that’s what they want you to see.
If someone wants you to know something, question why. Is it to make them feel good? Is it to try and make you feel bad?
Now, I’m not saying NEVER use it, but don’t swap genuine interaction with a real human being, for a like on a comment.
If you’re bored, sitting around, waiting for your wife to come out of the changing rooms at Selfridges AGAIN then that’s not so bad, but don’t let it replace something more useful.
After all, your mobile phone has already replaced your camera, your CD player even your bookshelf. It shouldn’t also replace your connection with friends and family.
Research from about 18 months ago found that nearly half of 18-24 year olds say they often feel lonely. Compared to only a quarter of those aged over 65 and a UK average of a third.
In another survey last year. Half of the over 55’s asked said they NEVER feel lonely whereas 83% of under 35’s said that they were ‘often, always or sometimes’ lonely.
If you find that despite having 1000 Facebook friends you still feel lonely or isolated, then learning to deal with anxiety is the first step, listening to these podcasts means you’re already a step ahead of anyone else, it means that if there are changes to be made then you are willing to learn how to make them.
Learn some relaxation exercises,
Learn to breathe properly,
Learn to speak to complete strangers, even if it’s just a generic bloke walking his dog, or better still get a dog and go and take it for a walk, I guarantee you’ll have more “good mornings” thrown your way than you ever have had before.
Or just simply pick up the phone and call someone you’ve not spoken to for a while. Because that’s a habit that it would be nice to get back into, it’s a part of life that’s being replaced with pixels on a electronic device, and that’s not a proper conversation.
How many times do you need to hear a joke before it’s no longer funny?
What if you replayed that joke every day for a few years, would you find it anywhere near as funny as you did when you first heard it?
I doubt it.
So why do we find that we can hold onto bad experiences for years and still feel upset about it?
It may sound daft but it’s often because there is a part of us that doesn’t want to let go of the past trauma. Losing the memory completely might leave us vulnerable to the same threat returning. If it’s always on our mind then we’ll always be on the lookout for the potential for it to happen again and so can run away from it before it even starts.
If that happens with you then congratulations you’re human.
Although in the 21st century it’s probably OK to let anything that happened to you in the past stay in the past.
But, in order to move on and leave it in the past we need to recognise that the past is gone. The first step in doing that is to spend some time living in the NOW, to notice more about what’s going on in the present.
Lately that process is part of what’s being called Mindfulness, and has been around as a process for thousands of years under various different names, and is still around today.
Whether you call it Mindfulness or Meditation, we are all capable of doing it.
All of us, no matter how stressed or anxious, will at times have a blank mind. Whether that’s because we’re enjoying a piece of music, a book or even a thought.
Sometimes things just seem to pause and we’re only noticing something that we’re focusing on.
I recommend you practise that, because taking that first step in letting go of the past by only noticing the present, gives you evidence that its safe to leave the past where it belongs.
Do you need to stop being a victim?
I know that sounds a bit rude, after all something could’ve happened that was awful, but blaming someone else for how you feel years later isn’t helping.
Take responsibility for your emotions. If you’ve been practising negative emotions you can get so good at them that they feel automatic, and you create the feelings so fast they seem outside of your control. But it’s just a skill, you’ve got good at feeling bad, thats all.
So get good at feeling good. by practising.
Everything we have to learn to do takes practise, and part of succeeding at something does mean being bad at it first for a while, but keep at it, you’ll get there.
Take responsibility for your happiness. Don’t let someone from your past have control over your emotions, why let someone continue to hurt you, deliberately? I know it can be hard but that’s OK, hard work pays off in pretty much every circumstance certainly this one.
Overcoming these things doesn’t happen by accident, it happens because we let it happen.
Do you need to forgive someone for something, obviously not everyone is going to be forgiven, there are some things that we can’t forgive and I wouldn’t ask you to. But there are some events that could easily create anger towards someone and thats not helpful, it eats away at us and keeps the past locked in our minds as if it’s the present.
See if you can create some genuine empathy, try and look at it from their perspective. Most people that come to therapy are suffering with nothing more than life itself, a phrase that Freud used 100 plus years ago, and it’s still (mostly) the case today. Yes, there are some awful things too, but the majority are petty, relatively trivial, and that can be frustrating to a client because they know that they shouldn’t be feeling as bad about it as they do.
But they keep going back in their mind to maybe one particular time that they were hurt, and if someone was to honestly explain why they did what they did to you or said what they said, they’d probably reply “Because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time”.
They don’t have to admit that they were wrong for you to let it go, and you don’t need them to…………
As a wise man once said
“I’m in love, I’m in love and I don't care who knows it"
Granted, it was Will Ferrell in the Christmas film Elf, but the message still stands. But how do I know that I’m actually in love?
As I salute David Bowie and Alan Rickman and wave them off onto "A New Career in a New Town" I raise the question of how labels influence our personality.
Does labelling yourself change the way we act and feel?
Does other people labelling us do the same?
Come with me on a "Fantastic Voyage" and we'll see what we can figure out.
If someone bumps into you do YOU say sorry or do they say sorry?
Common sense says being bumped into is nothing to apologise for, but if your self-esteem is low then your default thinking might be, “If I didn’t exist they wouldn’t have bumped into me, so it’s my fault.”
It sounds like an exaggeration, but I know for a fact that some of you do go through that process.
Today we look at the habit people often develop of apologising unnecessarily.
Have you ever walked into a room to find that everyone’s laughing about something and so you begin to smile and maybe even laugh yourself as you enquire what’s funny?
It happens all the time, but what was it that made YOU smile and laugh? After all you didn’t know what they were laughing at!
But in that moment your mood had genuinely lifted, even if for a second or so.
You were smiling and laughing simply because someone else was smiling and laughing all because of the phenomenon of what’s called Emotional Contagion.
Have you ever said “Yes” to something, when in your head you’re screaming “Nooooo!”?
Maybe you fit in with the attitude that “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person”
After all, that’s what people say isn’t it?
But, why is that?
Ever heard of neuroplasticity?
It means the brain’s ability to change and a lot of research has been undertaken to show just how flexible our brain really is, and coming back from a holiday last month made me think.