Anyone for Armageddon this weekend?

Do you want to know why there are no werewolves nearby? I string up bulbs of garlic whenever there is a full moon. And it works — I never ever hear a howl at night: so garlic obviously keeps them away. I also bang a couple of rusty cans together every 21 days at noon for 10 seconds: that works equally well.

I’d like to think that even a young child could see the problems wth the logic here. But there are many adults who are superstitious, and honestly believe in astrology and celestial influences on our lives.

I have a bit of a problem understanding a causal connection between how stars billions of miles apart can be anthropomorphised into mythological symbols, random patterns of which are superimposed on groups of stars. As the sun tracks across some of these groups during the course of a calendar year, this is claimed to exert an influence on our lives, past and future. And all this flows from the relative configurations at the moment of our birth.

Some people are fervent believers in astrology, and claim that there really is “something in it.” But even those who purport not to believe in astrology or horoscopes sometimes admit to taking a peek at their daily horoscope in the newspaper. I still smile when a past astrologer for the UK newspaper, The Sun, was sacked for lazily re-issuing horoscopes published in previous years: the editor began the letter of dismissal “As you will no doubt have foreseen….”

As every popular newspaper publishes horoscopes, I’m left   wondering why we never see a newspaper headline: “Our astrologer scoops lottery jackpot!

One of the common factors that sometimes undermines the quality of our life is the belief that we are not in control of it. Many people assume that external influences — people and events — really do shape our lives.  Even those who claim not to be superstitious nonetheless avoid spilling salt, walking under ladders, and stay safely at home on Friday 13th — “just in case there might be something in it”.

But for those of us with a more rational perspective, a couple of interesting research studies recently helped to dispel some cherished beliefs.  And one in particular confronted one celestial phenomena that even rational people consider has some sort of influence over us — the moon. Although few believe that the full moon transforms normal human beings into werewolves (thank goodness for the protective powers of garlic), we do know it influences the tides. And many feel that the full moon does have some sort of influence. That has just been tested.

Some 5,000 children from five continents, from a wide range of backgrounds, were surveyed to ascertain whether the full moon really did have an effect. The results were unequivocal. It didn’t. The only empirical outcome was that the subjects slept less: 1% were affected.

I also conducted a small social experiment with a Facebook group, when Mercury was in “retrograde”. This is where Mercury appears to reverse its track across the sky for a few days (or nights) and then resumes its usual course.  It occurs due to the relative changes in viewing the annual orbit of Mercury which revolves around the sun in 88 days, and that of our earth’s 365 days. Astrologers often claim that such a rare event (it happens once every few decades) was fraught! This event was a harbinger of doom-laden malevolence raining down on us. So I thought I would test this.

I asked a small sample of 100 people on a Facebook group to which I belonged, whether the previous day had been normal for them, or worse than normal.  Mercury was in retrograde the previous day but I did not mention Mercury or its orbit. About one person in seven said the day was worse than normal: 17%.  When I repeated the question a few weeks later, the response was about the same: 17% said the day was worse than normal.  So the results showed that the orbit of Mercury was hardly a cataclysmic day from hell.

Somewhat ironically, I incurred some not inconsiderable stress on the day Mercury was in retrograde: my laptop kept booting up in “safe mode’ -and it took a few frustrating hours’ investigating the problem, which merely turned out to be a ‘stuck’ shift key. The more superstitious of those to whom I mentioned this said it was due to the malevolent influence of Mercury. I chose to conclude that I saw no reason to assume this was a portent of celestial Armageddon from the gods.

Meanwhile, let’s all have a big party to celebrate the doom-laden arrival of the imaginatively named”Planet X”, aka Nibiru, which has been prophesied to smash into Earth this weekend, on Saturday 23rd September. If anyone believes this really is going to happen, can you let me have all your possessions? Well, you won’t be needing them…

From Confusion to Clarity.

Life can be so confusing.

Those living happy lives invariably have clarity.

They’re clear on what life is generally all about, and they’re also clear how they fit in. They’re not perfectionists — getting 80% is pretty good for most assessments. But they have a good idea.

OK — that’s them — we all know there are people happy with their lot in life. But that may not be you. You may well want to be like that, or more like that. Maybe 60% certainty is a good interim aim for you. Especially if you’re not even 20% sure about life and how to get the best out of it.

Or perhaps even that is optimistic: maybe you’re someone who, when asked to score the quality of your life from 1-10, would say…. “ -1”. 

But even though the score is low, you’re not stupid. You’re not going to change from -1 to 8/10 overnight. But you do know one thing. You’re not happy with your current score! So how can things improve? It’s not as though you haven’t tried. You know you tried so many times to get fit, lose weight, manage personal finances better, find a loving relationship — and everything just fell apart.

Which, if you think about it,  is good  — because if you are honest —  you may not know how to get a great life — but you do know what didn’t work before!  So why not use that?

You know you want change. And if change is to bring about a better quality of life, it has to be a change that lasts. Everyone who wants to lose weight can lose weight. Keeping it off is the key. Anyone who wants to be more secure financially can save some money. But can they do that consistently?

So how to proceed?

One of the best ways to start to bring about a change for the better is to start by asking a question.

If you’re not happy with your life, why is that? If you lost something or someone, what do you take from that? If you’re overwhelmed, what can you do to get clarity? If you are fearful, how can you stop the fear paralysing you?

Once you start asking questions, you start to get answers.

But here’s the thing.

If the question is not a great question, the answer won’t be all that good. For example…

“Why can’t I lose weight??” might elicit the answer:

Because you’re a slob who eats junk food

It’s not a great answer, but it’s an ANSWER. It’s a starting point.

You want to improve the quality of your life. Well, why not begin by trying to get a better quality question.

Instead of “Why am I always so overweight?” why not ask “how could I lose weight AND enjoy the process??

Ask a better question, and what happens?  You get a better answer!

And, with a better answer, does that show you a path you could follow.

Questions produce clarity.

So ask a question. But if you don’t like the answer, aim for a better question.

Of course, it takes practice.

But so does the quality of life

What’s the question you could ask….?

You’re not that bright….

None of us are. We  like to think we’re smart, just how clever are we?  How many inspirational insights do we “tick” as being relevant, without really internalising them by absorbing them fully. 
One of my favourites is ‘do what you have always done, and you’ll get what you’ve always got.’ If you want a different outcome in life, you can’t keep doing the same things and expect a different result; I think Einstein defined this as insanity. But most of us keep doing what we’ve always done and wonder why we always get the same results.
 
An equally wise thinker, Aristotle, recognised that we are what we habitually do. And, of course, our thinking patterns are nothing if not habituated. We may think we are supremely intelligent, whether we attended the university of life, or other of hallowed halls of learning. But when it comes to thinking about our lives, what the hell happened to all those lofty dreams we had for ourselves when we were young?
The sad reality is that we rarely use our intelligence. Most of the time we live on autopilot; a classic example is driving somewhere without any conscious recollection of the journey. Far from being the personification of laser-focus, most of us often potter along life’s highway in a trance, most days.
 
One major misconception that what we believe is the result of long, continuous periods of careful, rational analysis. But the truth is that everything we encounter isn’t analysed. Instead we simply compare it to what we already know or believe: so it either confirms what we already know, or it’s rejected if it’s not in accord. We like being “right”, so we unconsciously seek out confirmation, and dismiss anything than contradicts our perceptions. And because we consistently do this, the older we are, the more entrenched our views tend to become.
 
We also do this retrospectively; we tend to revise memories to keep our view of how we used to be consistent with whom we believe ourselves to be now. How many times do we, or others, say “I knew that would happen” or “I had a feeling he was going to say that”? Both of these are examples of mental shortcuts, and they have influenced the way we think for most of our lives; the former is ‘confirmation bias’ and the latter is ‘hindsight bias. Have you ever noticed that politicians rarely if ever admit they were wrong in the past? Now you know why.
 
When it comes to deciding what we need to do, we all know what we SHOULD be doing. We all know what we NEED to be doing. We’re brilliantly effective at planning what we will do — tomorrow. Or next week. We’re crystal-clear in our mind about how to focused on what’s important and must be done. And, in our mind’s eye, we can visualise ourselves doing it. We have support mechanisms like post-it notes everywhere, and smart-phones programmed with reminders. We really know how to do what needs doing. When it’s in the future. A note to the wives: when your husband says he will do something, HE WILL DO IT. He doesn’t need reminding every six months!
 
How often have we delayed getting on with something important because we just need to check Facebook and want to know what our friends might be doing today? After all, that’s something we can get out of the way quite quickly. And we may well put the kettle on and have a cup of tea or coffee while we’re browsing what others are up to. And let’s just check our email why we’re at it, from where we find an irresistible news item about celebrity nipples, or “12 women that actually exit in real life (click here). And, of course, there are links to “five ways to beat procrastination” which might just come in useful. Although Google will also tempt us with 5, 11, 26, 17, or 8 scientifically proven ways to beat procrastination, or 6 ways celebrities beat procrastination, or the 8 best ways of wasting your time, or the 5 most revealing cleavages/budgie-smugglers EVER.  Needless to say (so why did I write it and why are you reading this) there are also all those productivity apps that enable us to have a list at our fingertips of things we really must get around to thinking about considering doing.
 
But let’s not rush into this. Let’s think about it for a moment, and explore some of the underlying issues. If you were today offered a choice of dessert for tomorrow, of fruit or ice-cream, which would you choose? The healthy option? If you were offered dessert now, what would you choose now? Chances are you may well opt for ice-cream.
 
Do you have a fridge crisper full of lettuce and green vegetables, which you piously bought, fully intending to eat, but somehow always got tempted by the lemon-drizzle cake instead, and eventually have to throw the lettuce away? The angel in you always suggests the healthy option tomorrow, but somehow the devil in you opts for naughty-but-nice….now. Have you ever noticed all that chocolate on sale at the supermarket check-out? You know why it’s there: impulse buying. If the kids are with us, we buy it for them. Naturally. When we’re on our own…?
 
We like to think we know ourselves. But we’re deluded again and again and again. How often do we practice testing whether something we think we know is actually true? We so often kid ourselves that the reason we can’t stick to a diet is because we’re weak-willed, so after a few attempts we give up and take solace in comfort food. We read articles that show most people put on weight after dieting, so this confirms our belief. We learn to live with what we become and learn not to try to become something else. We learn to stay stuck.
 
We learn to believe we can’t succeed. So we stop trying.
 
Or we can decide to stop thinking and just keep doing. Our minds will try and persuade us that we’ll never change. But now you know the insidious effects of confirmation bias, you now know it’s not real: it’s only a misperception.
 
After all, nothing succeeds like a parrot.

Summer holidays soon! Sun, sea… (spoiled by fear of flying?)

It’s holiday time! Guaranteed sun! Fun! Stress-free… except perhaps the unavoidable hassles of jetting off. Who doesn’t hate the queues and inevitable delays in crowded airports – to say nothing of having to endure cheap, cattle-class, no-frills if we want a low-cost flight?

But while we all have to grin and bear the gritty no-frills experience, several million will also spend endless hours with white knuckles, before and during the flight, gripped by fear – and often it’s not just “a fear” of flying: many are downright petrified.  If you’re also claustrophobic, it’s even worse, of course.

It doesn’t matter that statistically you’re far more likely to have an accident on the journey to the airport: the odds of a plane crash are 1 in 1.2 million flights, and the odds of dying is almost ten times higher – 1:11,000,000, which is close to the same odds of winning a lottery jackpot.

Even though probability of it happening to you is infinitesimally remote, the fear is real, and far from distant.

So what can you do? Suffer? Or DO something about it?

You can, of course, attend a 1:1 fly-with-confidence course run by British Airways, with prices starting at £2,950 (or £699 if you don’t mind joining nine others).

Or you can let me help you. Because the good news is that, even though you may have a fear of flying SEEMS real, it’s actually something you create. It’s being created by thoughts. It’s not something “happening to you.” Help is at hand.

Fear of flying – and all other phobias – can be overcome incredibly easily. And no, that doesn’t mean dragging you to an aircraft, strapping you in for the flight, and when it’s over saying, “there you are – nothing to worry about!”

Instead, I can help you overcome your fear by helping you to re-think your beliefs, restructure your style of thinking, and by giving you the psychological insights that help you understand the link between how you think and how you feel. Don’t take my word for it – hundreds have overcome their fear of flying this way – and now look forward to flying off to the sun. Even on no-frills cattle class!

Find out more by calling me on 08385 88283 (Republic of Ireland) or 07597 232 000 (UK).

First Aid when you are feeling low.

There are times when life catches us out, and our mood plummets. I’ve been thinking about some easy tips that can help deflect us from gloomy thoughts and low mood. I hope these three first-aid tips may help…

 
(1) Physiological control:
Stress is physical and its effects are actual physical consequence. Agitation, shallow breathing, raised pulse – the hormone adrenaline is flowing – and is physically felt.
 
Taking physiological control helps to calm, soothe, and slow down overthinking and racing thoughts, as well as pacify bodily systems hyped up by stress.
 
Breathe deeply and exhale shallow de-oxygenated air held in the lungs. Getting fresh air inside you will invigorate you. Ground yourself by naming and touching things around you, talk to yourself by naming what you can see and touch nearby, and even smell, if you have flowers or other aromatics nearby. This all deflects the mind — and as your mind can only deal with one thought at a time, intentional distractions shift the focus away from what was causing you stress and lessens their effect on you..
 
 
(2) Relate to someone
If you have a supportive partner, family member or friend, do tell them you are feeling low – they don’t need to know the details, only that you’re just feeling a bit low and would appreciate them being there for you, even for just a moment. Distractions through conversations also shift your focus away from stress. Everyone gets stressed out now and again, and everyone knows what it’s like. So, as we do far more for others we care about than we ever do for ourselves, just ask! Most will be grateful to you for calling on their support — even though your social anxiety may be sky-high and you may be reluctant to “burden” others; but the truth is that we like to be asked for help as it makes us feel valued, and gives us a shot of dopamine, the feel-good hormone.
 
Not convinced? A great way to “test” this is to try it out when you are NOT stressed. You can just say you’re feeling a bit down and could do with some support: nothing major, just a bit fed up — and see what happens. This is not to suggest trying it with everyone in the office! But trying it once or twice when you’re NOT feeling too deflated — or perhaps when you feel it might happen soon, and you may well be surprised just how supportive people can be. So when you really DO need help, you will know it’s literally there for the asking, rather than your inner critic telling you that you’re best not to bother anyone because no-one really cares.
(3) Regain your perspective: what has worked for you?
Do remember the words of Michael Montaigne: “My life has been full of misfortunes, most of which never happened.” If you can anticipate a worst-case scenario and know you can deal with that – you’ve massively empowered yourself. You KNOW you can cope. This deflects pressures and stresses from getting to you. Also, recall great moments in your life – really get fully back there to that fantastic time/joyful moment, and chest-bursting moment of pride. We’ve all had them, even though you may have forgotten! We don’t recall happy memories so much as re-create them. So make a conscious effort to recreate happier times. And, as you can only focus on one thought at a time, you take control and choose the thoughts you DO want to focus on, rather than the ones you don’t.
These aren’t intended as anything other than a “quick fix” to deflect those gloomy thoughts and deflated feelings. But hopefully they will give you ideas of practical steps you can take to move from thoughts controlling you, to you taking control of your thoughts.

Which came first?

Have you ever wondered which came first, the depression/anxiety or the negative thinking? Many assume the depression gives rise to negative thoughts. But does it?

If pressed, most mental health professionals will admit they really have no idea what causes depression. And many admit to increasing suspicions that neither medication or therapy seem very effective in dealing with depression, long term.

But there is increasing evidence that depression is a consequence, not a cause, of negative thinking. More and more credence is being given to the idea that the body can only deal with so much negative thinking. Just as we can only cope with a limited amount of stress. So a prolonged period of negative thinking — often, but not always, following a traumatic event — leads us to feel increasingly numb. 

To absolutely everything.

It’s now being seen as a body defence mechanism against stress and things we find it hard to handle. Research now shows that negative thinking can occur hundreds of times a day, often subconsciously. So, faced with too much stress, the body pulls down protective shutters down, literally to diminish the senses.

So if we recognise that depression is a protective defence mechanism that desensitises us, we have now identified the cause. But we cannot  expect anything to change without addressing the negative thinking that brought about the “shut-down” in the first place.

A break is needed. If we stop trusting our depleted way of thinking — and just stop thinking so much, we can reverse the process. So as a first step, perhaps don’t even think about anything. Just get out and about, doing nothing more than taking a walk. You WILL feel lighter and low mood will lift. In fact your mind and perspectives will probably feel just a but different.

Why not give it a try? It really does work. Then the process of re-training the mind to process information properly can begin.

It’s your business to prosper and flourish

It’s often been said that an organisation – non-profit or otherwise — is only as healthy as the people that comprise it. And stress in the workplace is now quite literally reaching a crisis point. The world of work is currently besieged by a whole raft of problems that gravely undermine well-being as well as productivity, a few examples of which include:

  • absenteeism
  • alcohol/drug abuse
  • poor work-life balance
  • excess stress
  • inter-personal conflict.

Current surveys show that there is also widespread additional stress and disquiet experienced by women trying to balance the demands of home/careers.

Although many wellness initiatives have traditionally tried to help with physical well-being, few are effective at removing the stresses that undermine the mind to function effectively.

So how can your organisation blossom and flourish?

Almost every issue or problem that detracts from better quality lives is driven by psychological and/or emotional forces. There has never been a more timely need for individuals to learn how better to manage their thoughts, emotions and beliefs — and in so doing, be more in charge of their lives, instead of being manipulated by other people and circumstances. And you know only too well that most people would like nothing more than finding a way to bring about positive, lasting changes for themselves. So what organsation would not benefit from their people achieving that?

Workplaces with a minimum of stress and optimal engagement will always out-perform those where employees dread coming into work.

If you work in, or know of, a business or public sector organisation that would benefit from our genuinely innovative way of achieving a happier workplace, you have only to get in touch.

A fullfilling life is not just an option: it’s there for everyone.

Life will always be challenging at times and we’ve all had setbacks. But these present a choice: they can lead us to survive, or they can challenge us to strive for something more than mere survival, or settling for the status quo. Those who flourish have learned to live beyond, not with stress, worry and anxiety.

But real though the experiences of the past were, what causes current stress, anxiety and despair is often us actively keeping the pain of the past very much alive in the present.

It may be tempting to assume that anxiety-related conditions are somehow medical disorders, for which there are two options: medication and therapy. There is also advice from well-meaning friends and family to ‘pull yourself together’. None of the options seem very effective.

Medication artificially alters brain chemistry and is not without side effects. Therapy can be protracted, expensive, and is often ineffective; if benefits do materialise, it is usually down to the particular skills of the individual therapist, rather than a particular therapeutic method per se. Well-meant advice to ‘deal with it’ and ‘get over it‘ is often as effective a way to eradicate depression and anxiety as asking a deaf person to listen more carefully.

But there is now overwhelming evidence that lives blighted by low mood and pessimism have more to do with the beliefs we hold today, about what happened in the past. Time heals, they say. But not when we actively maintain unpleasant experiences and keep them current. And, of course, because they figure prominently in our perceptions, particularly if they make us feel “worthless,” they continually influence how we perceive things today.

But it’s relatively easy to learn to let go. By learning how to relate our thinking styles to our behaviour, it’s much easier than many believe to abandon unhelpful perspectives, negative limiting beliefs and overly-critical self-talk, and to move beyond despair, so we blossom and flourish, living a full and happy life devoid of angst but replete with optomisim and resilience to deal with whatever life may throw our way.

If want to overcome the limitations that have held you back, you can learn how how to do that in just six-eight weekly or bi-weekly sessions.

Why not contact me to arrange a free no-obligation 40 minute consultation? It can literally set you up for life, no matter what happened in the past. Why not ask me how?

What can you DO when you’re depressed? Nothing? Maybe. Then again…

We’ve all been there. In a state of sadness. Sometimes we literally despair. Next day we might get over it, particularly if the sun is shining. But sometimes it doesn’t just go away. And when it persists, low mood can become so deeply depressing. One of the most debilitating effects of low mood – as typified by persistent worry, deep anxiety and depression – leads the mind to stay firmly focused on “what’s wrong”; this cognitive version of tunnel vision literally loses sight of “what’s right”. The psychological imbalance also seems highly resistant to what can be done to minimise the feeling of despair and gloominess.

But we can challenge our thoughts. We really can. Who said our thoughts always serve our best interests? Where is that written? Indeed, there is considerable evidence to show that it is precisely because we DO NOT challenge negative thoughts that they become more and more entrenched and deeply rooted. And don’t forget, our rational mind – for all the education it had – can’t overrule how we feel. Ask any regular dieter.

Perhaps the most debilitating effect of pathological worry, deep anxiety and the pit of cerebral despair itself–depression–is that soulless, cheerless feeling of anger without enthusiasm, leading the mind to stay firmly locked onto “what’s wrong”. This cognitive version of tunnel-vision literally loses sight of “what’s right”. Not only is it an imbalance; it’s highly resistant to any remotely positive perspectives. When challenged by any optimistic attempts to diminish the insidious feeling of mental angst and gloom, the mind can be downright bigoted.

Persistent low mood inexorably takes root within the deepest recesses of our mind, from whence it becomes a gloomy-grey filter, literally clouding out all other perspectives.  Most sufferers will know that only too well. And everyone would agree it is so difficult to feel motivated to challenge our morose thinking when we are in low mood mode. Which, for some, is all the time. Especially if we feel powerless in the downward spiral as our spirits plunge. So our self-esteem drops to the point where we feel worthless  as well as helpless. But there is an alternative to challenging our thinking, given that our rational mind is not all that strong when it comes to challenging how we feel. So…

Stop thinking.

When the language of self-talk has become all-or-nothing/black and white – “you’re a total failure” and “you can’t do anything right” – leading us to focus on all the things that went wrong, totally ignoring anything remotely positive, our emotional low becomes our “reality”. So we really do feel like a total failure.

Not only that, we become telepathic and imagine everyone can see our inner flaws. And, of course, we believe this will never change, and that we will remain useless and desperately sad for ever.

Wow! What a lot of … labelling … has taken place.

When we realise that our inner voice has become persistently pessimistic, it is definitely time to stop listening. If we become embroiled in a weary argument with errant friends and family, we often say “I’ve heard enough!!” So why not say this to ourselves?

Time to stop listening and stop thinking. Literally. Just telling ourselves we have “had ENOUGH!” can quieten our mind. So do that, and be ready to fill the moment, before your inner voice does.

Tempting though it is to take up permanent residence on the couch in front of mindless TV programmes, get up and move around, preferably vigorously! Feel the difference, but stop listening to what your mind may be telling you. If you feel tired and want to flop, just try this: no matter how exhausted you feel, tell yourself you WILL get up and take ten steps. A tired mind can never EVER prevent leg muscles from working. Try it! Just ten steps.  Don’t even think about it. If you’re doubtful, just test out the theory that you can get off the sofa. Test yourself. Take ten steps. That’s all.  Just to prove you can. What have you got to lose? There is nothing worth watching on TV, after all. So get up and take ten step.  Once you have taken ten, you have beaten inertia.

And that’s the time when it’s time to go for a walk. Don’t think about not wanting to. This is really important. It’s not time for a deeply introspective debate. It’s certainly not time to listen to your inner voice telling you that you really are going to be so much happier back on the sofa, channel-hopping for the least mind-numbingand tedious TV programme. Trust your long-subdued real-you to get some fresh air. If the sun is shining, so much the better – take the sun glasses, but hang them fashionably from the neck of your shirt, and feel the rays on your face. If it’s raining, just remember Billy Connolly’s wise observation that there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes. So dress accordingly. You won’t dissolve in rain.

While out, remember not to think, but do look around. Listen. The brain can only cope with a very limited number of stimuli (maybe only five or six) so tune into what your senses are alert to – listen for bird song, look for plants and trees, clouds, touch walls, windows (only your own!), feel the buzz of the city or the peace of the countryside. Do not even think of judging what you do or do not see.

Quicken your pace. It’s virtually impossible to stay gloomy while walking briskly. Feel what’s happening – your feet landing, arms swinging, head up, looking around. You are starting to get back in touch with feelings that you may have mislaid! Pay attention to what you can hear around you and the feelings of mud squelching under foot or the soft scuff of soles on the sidewalk/pavement.

After fifteen minutes or so you WILL feel better. That’s the time to realise you have literally taken the first steps back to the-real-you, that – deep down – you really do want to be. Again.

There is so much more you can do. Eat better for example. When we’re feeling low we may only feel like sugar-rich junk ‘food’. But healthier food fights fatigue. And makes us feel better. The trigger of the Golden Arches may momentarily make you drool, but do those chemical-laden fast-food burgers really ever make anyone feel great inside? Get some vitamins and Omega-3 oils (found in fish) inside you. They will make you feel better. They can’t not.

There are other things you can do. Key word here is “DOING”.

Do things you enjoy – or used to enjoy doing. Don’t think about whether or not it’s a good idea – just think Nike and JUST DO IT. Tell yourself you will assess whether or not it was worthwhile AFTER you’ve done it; not before.

Connect with people – a smile, a friendly greeting, or something you know you will be appreciated, like resuming contact with someone with whom we’ve been remiss at keeping in touch – we all have someone who would appreciate a call. Try a random act of kindness – there are lots of opportunities to help someone. The key thing here is to remember to not even think about NOT doing. Just do it and see if it helps. Do NOT imagine you can predict how you will feel. Although your inner voice will do just that.

I’m not so naive to imagine this is all some magic wand that will turn your life around. Only you can do that. But if you suspend your gloomy thoughts and negative self-talk for one morning or one afternoon, and do as many of these activities as you can, there is no way you won’t start feeling better. The more vigorously you engage in doing things that make you feel better, the more you start to undermine your feelings of powerlessness and despair. And who knows where that might lead you?

 

Overthinking is over-rated

So much of our mental anguish seems to lead from overthinking and thoughts out of control. Can there be anything as troubling as the thoughts that take up residence in our heads and never leave?

Overthinking is particularly draining — going over the same issue again, and again, and again, and again… Why do we do this? If we lost our car keys and found them again after frisking ourselves a few times, and revisiting all the places we’d been to since leaving the car, we would never dream of repeating the search once the keys were safely to hand. So why would we spend time re-visiting thoughts that keep whirling around in our head? Do we imagine that we might somehow stumble on a detail that we have previously overlooked? Are we frenetically seeking a subtle omission? And supposing we indeed do find that missing element? How would we know? Chances are we’d look for something else as well.

Worry is not a friend. We might think that by being sensitive we’re keeping an important issue in the forefront of our mind. But show me someone who worries and I’ll bet your last Euro/dollar/pound/rouble that worry achieves nothing worth worrying about. We don’t trip over mountains. But little stones in the way seem to have a knack of destabilising us. Is that why worriers find it hard to get off to sleep? What better time for thoughts to race around in our heads when the lights and TV are switched off?

Do we think that we need to keep thinking because we need to keep thinking?

No. We need instead to stop thinking and let go. We also need to stop substituting analysing and planning for taking action: most of the time it’s far better to “ready, fire and then adjust the aim” rather than continually aiming. Doing is always better than thinking about wondering what we need to consider worrying about doing. But our minds often won’t let us let go. We revisit the past; we mentally stumble around in the future. One thing that perpetual overthinking seems to do is keep us locked into the past and the future, but rarely keep us focuses on the present. That’s thr power of uncertainty. Most of the time we let our thoughts do our thinking for us.

Why not learn how better to manage your thinking better and regain control?