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Wellbeing Blog

These wellbeing messages are written by our wellbeing mentor, Emma Williams, and shared weekly with the King’s High community.

May

I’ve been hearing a lot recently about how many young people are being left to eat alone at home and in some cases preparing their own meals and then eating them alone.  This concerns me for several reasons.  Instead of sharing this time with family members, having real conversations about real life, some young people are sharing this precious time with their devices, online or watching TV.  Obviously we lead progressively more and more busy lives, lack of time and the fact that we have to be in so many different places at different times, makes being all in the same place at once much more difficult.  I do get that the demands of overtime or shift patterns for parents and extra-curricular activities and clubs for young people can be a burden on finding space for evening time together.  Can I at least encourage you to think about meal times as being a fundamental, core value of family time, and maybe to reflect on how sharing food and eating together enhances quality of relationships between family members and increases our sense of psychological and physical wellbeing?

On researching this topic I came across this website and found the information very interesting.

I would like to encourage you to read this and to think about the topic of family time. 

Online ref thefamilydinnerproject.org

 

 

Benefits of Family Dinners

Our belief in the “magic” of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals.  Some of the specific benefits of family dinners are:

  • Better academic performance
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Greater sense of resilience
  • Lower risk of substance abuse
  • Lower risk of teen pregnancy
  • Lower risk of depression
  • Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
  • Lower rates of obesity

If you’d like to know more about the research behind the benefits of family dinners, Dr. Anne K. Fishel’s Food for Thought blog is a great place to start.  These reports and articles are also good references:

If you are interested in reading more about the benefits of family dinner, check out our Family Dinner References page.

 

The Two Wolves

The old and wise Cherokee taught daily lessons to his seven grandchildren; lessons about life.  One day as they sat down together to start their lesson one of his grandchildren said she was feeling very sad about an argument she had had with her older brother.  The old and very wise Cherokee said “Come sit by me by and listen”.  A battle is raging inside me…it is a terrible fight between two wolves.  One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.  The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”  The old man looked at the children with a firm stare.  “This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”  They thought about this for a moment, and the youngest child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee replied: “The one you feed.”

We all have a ‘free will’, which is a freedom to choose.  By exercising this freedom of choice, we can make life-changing decisions every day about which attitudes we want to adopt.

Like the wolves in the story represent the different attitudes which battle within for your attention, you can decide which wolf you want to feed.  Do you feed the wolf who is hungry for anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego?  This evil wolf also represents your inner critic, the voice inside that tells you, you are not good enough, this is the one who tells you that you are a failure, or that no-one loves you or understands you.  This wolf also fosters issues such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.  Do you want to feed this wolf?  Maybe you already are?

By cutting off his food supply, and feeding the ‘good wolf’ you are making a choice to use your energy and resources on positive thoughts, feelings, and emotions that serve both you and others around you in healthy ways.  It is important to recognize the negative thoughts and emotions which occur within you, and to accept that we all have them.  Then maybe you can say to yourself “There’s that thought again and that’s ok”, then you can let it go.  You don’t have to hold onto them or give them any more attention than that.  If you don’t ‘feed’ them, they will eventually drift away.  By shifting your focus towards that which is lovely, that’s which is good and positive you are choosing to nurture the goodness in and around you.  You can choose to feed the ‘good wolf’.  If you respond with joy, peace and love, you bring hope.  If you adopt an attitude of sharing, humility and kindness, you will naturally find true friendships; you will naturally develop empathy and be more generous in spirit.  You begin to walk in truth, finding compassion for ‘self’ and ‘others’ through faith in goodness.

Many people believe that confidence is the key to becoming more resilient, and I often hear young people say… “If I were more confident then I would cope better with life”. 

I would like to put forward that confidence is not the same as resilience.  Resilience is more about acceptance and the journey, whereas confidence may be more about conditionality and a feeling. I would say if I develop my resilience skills, then I may feel confident about the things that I do.  The following story may help explain.

 

 

The Carrot, the Egg, and the Coffee Bean

A young girl went to see her grandma and told her how tough things were and that she did not know how she was going to keep going, she just wanted to just give up.  The girl was tired of fighting and struggling.  It seemed that, no sooner one problem was solved, a new one would arise.

Her grandma took her to the kitchen and said “Sit here a while and watch”.  Grandma filled up three pots with water and placed each on the open kitchen fire. Soon the pots came to a boil.

In the first, she placed a carrot, in the second she placed an egg, and in the last she placed a handful of ground coffee beans.  She let them sit and boil without saying a word.  After about twenty minutes, she removed the pots and placed them on the hearths in front of the fire.  She fished out the carrot and placed it in a bowl.  She removed the egg and placed it in a bowl, then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.  Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, "Tell me, what you see?" "A carrot, an egg, and some coffee," the girl replied.  The grandma brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrot, she did and noted that it was really soft.  Then grandma asked her to take the egg and break it.  She tried and it didn’t break, but instead the shell cracked into many pieces and began to fall off, after pulling off all the shell, she observed the egg was very hard and tasted bitter.  Finally, she asked her to try the coffee.  The granddaughter smiled as she smelt the unique aroma and then tasted its rich flavour.  "What does this all mean though grandma?"  

Her grandma explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity, the boiling water, but each of them reacted differently.  The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting.  However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it became soft and lost all its strength.  The egg had been fragile at first, although its thin outer shell had protected the soft inside.  But, after sitting in the boiling water its inside changed, it lost its once soft form and became hard!  The ground coffee beans were unique; after they were subjected to the boiling water, something different happened.  They used the very water that boiled them and turned it into something strong and desirable "Which one of these are you like?" grandma asked her.

So when things get heated in your life and you find yourself in ‘the boiling water’ how do you respond?

Do you with pain and adversity, become soft and lose your strength like the carrot?  Or do you start with a soft heart, but like the egg get changed with the heat into a harder version of yourself that is tough and bitter?

Or are you like the coffee beans that actually change the hot water which contains them? Changing the very circumstance that brings the pain and adversity.  

When things are at their worst, do you become a better version of yourself and change the situation around you?

We grow through adversity and develop in ways which we couldn’t if these things had never happened. Embrace adversity and remember we are made stronger through our trials and become more of who we can be.

April

This term I would like to focus on a topic that I believe is key to living a well-balanced purposeful life. The topic I would like to focus on is Resilience.  


Many people see resilience as not being affected by things, being strong and not reacting.  Actually that is not what it means at all.  Resilience is about being able to bounce back from the setbacks, recover more quickly from the knocks.  It is about being able to respond instead of reacting to situations that demand our immediate attention.  Resilience is a skill that we learn, often modelled to us by significant people in our lives; development of it is a sign of maturity.  It also builds our self-efficacy, which is a belief we hold about ourselves and our abilities to meet the challenges of life (both in the ‘here and now’ and those which lie ahead of us) to the best of our ability.


Over the next few weeks through a series of narratives we shall look at developing those skills.


The Farmer and the Donkey 


One hot day whilst taking a break from their work and refreshment at the well, the farmer’s donkey fell down into the well.  The well was deep and its sides steep, there was no way out.  The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to work out what to do.  After much deliberation, the farmer eventually gave up trying to rescue the donkey and instead decided he would just bury him, after all the animal was old, and he didn’t have much work left in him - it just wasn’t going to be worth all the effort and expense to retrieve the donkey.
He invited all of his neighbouring farmers to come over and help him.  They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well in order to bury the donkey.  At first, the donkey, realizing what was happening, cried horribly.  Then, to everyone’s amazement, he quieted down, becoming calm and peaceful.
A few shovel loads later, the farmer looked down the well.  He was astonished at what he saw.  With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He shook off the dirt and took a step upwards on to the new mound.
As the farmer’s neighbours continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would do the same again, shake it off and take a step up.  Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up out of the well and happily trotted off to graze on the field!
We can fall into unexpected troubles just like the donkey.  Life can throw dirt on you at times, all kinds of dirt.  The skill comes in getting out of the well, in shaking off the dirt and taking a step up.  If we see each of our trials as stepping stones, we then change our attitude towards them, seeing our trials as opportunity instead of setback.  We can get out of the deepest wells just by looking at the challenge through a different lens.  So don’t stop, never give up!  Shake it off and instead of being overwhelmed, take a step up.
 
 
 

 

March

So you’ve made it…it’s nearly holiday time.  Yeah!! I hear you say.  I know you are all tired and I’m sure some of you have some fun stuff planned over the holidays, and I want to encourage you to enjoy every minute of this break. For many of you this holiday means revision and what may seem right now like endless piles of work to do. Please girls hear me when I say “try to find some time to relax and take care of yourself.”  I’ve spoken about self-care many, many times, I am still talking about it now and I probably always will. Relaxation is not a luxury, but is essential for our well-being.  Find some time for you and whatever you do, even if it’s nothing much, can I encourage you to enjoy it.

Time enjoyed is never wasted, but is a tonic for re-energising and rebalancing your soul.       

“Tired: A poem of self-care” By Lynsey Lock
 

she was tired- not the tired cured by caffeine from brewed coffee bean nor nullified by nice nap.
she was the tired that soaked under the surface into her heart, into her soul.
she was tired- she was seeking connection over shallowness; acceptance over rejection; freedom of expression over silence.
she was the tired that wanted to be wrapped up tightly in a warm blanket and kissed goodnight, but for her heart & soul.
she was the tired that cried long into the night longing for the love & connection she sought.
she was the tired that defied to be defined to be captured by words, but was felt with every bit of her heart.
so she stopped. she breathed.
she nourished herself- body, mind, heart, soul.
she rested & reflected.
she connected with the deep shadows inside and thanked them for reminding her that she deserved connection, acceptance, to express her wild heart full of dreams.
she thanked the ache for reminded her of her capacity to love with her whole being.
she wrapped herself tightly and reminded herself she was loved. she still cried, but there was gratitude, compassion, patience, self-care.
she spun magic out of words trying to capture even a portion of what was felt.
and would arrive at a peaceful understanding.
she had gotten to know herself, love herself a little better.

 

How did you sleep last night?

According to the Nationwide Children’s Organisation the average amount of sleep that teenagers get is between 7 and 7¼ hours. However, studies show that most teenagers need around 9¼ hours of sleep.

Here are a few proven methods that help promote healthy sleep:- 

  • Keep your room cool.  A temperature good for sleep is between 60-67 degrees.
  • Avoid caffeine, drinking coffee, sugary drinks or caffeinated soda.  Any caffeine consumed after lunchtime is likely to affect your sleep.
  • Exercise daily.  Getting your heart rate up during the day helps to promote good sleep.  Although it’s probably better to exercise earlier in the day when possible.
  • Avoid taking naps before bedtime, but if you feel so tired you can’t function, then keep naps really brief, so less than 20 minutes, just enough to give you a bit of a boost and refresh you, but not enough to prevent you sleeping later.
  • Turn off your TV, phone, and tablet, and dim the lights at least an hour before you hit the sack.
  • Keep your room as dark as you can, light pollution upsets the production of the sleep promoting hormone Melatonin.  As well as promoting sleep and healthy sleep cycles, Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant providing a variety of other health benefits.  It is thought to help support healthy eyes, treat stomach ulcers, help with heartburn and ease tinnitus symptoms.  So the darker the better, black out blinds are great to prevent those street lights from shining through your window at night.
  • If you’re struggling to get to sleep and still awake say after 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing, maybe make a cup of camomile tea and have a biscuit, a small amount of carbohydrate can encourage the production of serotonin which promotes drowsiness.  Food also influences Melatonin production in the brain.  Try reading a chapter of your favourite book or read an article in a magazine.  Staying in bed and tossing and turning trains your brain to stay awake.  If you have things on your mind then write them down on a piece of paper or in journal.  I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “better out than in” and in the case of worry that is certainly true.  Writing things down helps to disempower the worry and often helps you to make sense of things in a more rational manner and whatever it is it can wait until the morning.
  • Having a regular routine sets the tone for your body for the whole day.  If you can go to bed and get up at the same time every day that will help to create that routine.  If you consider how ‘muscle memory’ works in our brains and in our bodies and how powerful repetition is in habit forming, then we can just as easily create ‘good’ habits as we can ‘bad’ ones.  
  • Practicing these good bedtime habits can really help you to fall asleep faster and get a good night’s zzzzzzleeep!

 

 

Food affects mood – How?

Blood sugar – glucose, which is obtained from the carbohydrates (carbs) we eat, is the brain’s main source of fuel.  Without this fuel, our brain will be less able to fully function.  Some carbs are better for us than others.  Sugar, chocolate, white pasta, biscuits, white bread and cakes will only give a short burst of energy due to the sharp rise in blood sugar they produce, leaving you feeling tired and grumpy very soon after the sugar high wears off.

Complex carbohydrates - such as wholegrains, brown rice, beans, pulses, and vegetables, are a much better choice.  These are slower releasing fuels and do not have such a dramatic impact on blood sugar, so giving a more sustained energy source.

If you eat lots of sugary foods and drinks, stimulants such as coca-cola or drinks containing caffeine, blood sugar levels will ‘yoyo’ up and down.  This can make you irritable, anxious, and sometimes even dizzy.  Poor concentration and aggressive behaviour are also associated with rapid blood sugar changes.

Proteins found mainly in meat, fish and soya products are broken down in the body to amino acids, which are vital to good mental health.  The brain’s communication centre is fuelled by amino acids, so protein is vital for effective brain function.

Depression, apathy, lack of motivation or tension can be associated with too few amino acids in the diet.

Good Fats - essential fats, found mainly in oily fish, seeds and nuts, cannot be made within the body, so we have to get them from food.  Sixty per cent of the brain is made of fat, and the fats we eat directly affect its structure.  A lack of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to various mental health problems, including depression and lack of concentration.  Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble vitamins and can only be transported around the body in the fat we consume, so the lower fat diets = low levels of these essential vitamins being available for the body to use.

 

Brain food: top tips

• Don't skip meals.  Eat three meals a day with two ‘healthy’ snacks (for example fruit or yoghurt) in between.

• Try not to skip breakfast.

• Try to have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

• Try to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible.

• If you have to go for a pre-packaged meal then go for the options with fewest ingredients and avoid additives and artificial colourings and preservatives.

• Fresh bread (the type that goes stale overnight) is far better for you than any ‘stay fresh’ version, which contain many toxins.

 

Additives and preservatives are most often made from chemicals and are highly toxic for your bodies.

Stay whole food, stay healthy, eat well and be well.

Keeping hydrated is crucial for health and wellbeing, but many people do not consume enough fluids each day.  N.H.S Choices suggest we should drink about 1.2 litres (six to eight glasses) of fluid every day to stop us getting dehydrated, although most healthy people can stay hydrated by drinking water and other fluids whenever they feel thirsty.

Here are a few good reasons your bodies need water:

  1. Water lubricates your joints
    If your body experiences dehydration on a regular basis then this reduces the ability of your joints as shock-absorbing.  This can further lead to joint pain, the cartilage, found in your joints and the disks of the spine, contains around 80% water.
     
  2. It helps to deliver oxygen around your body
    Because your blood is more than 90% water and your blood delivers oxygen to all the different parts of the body.
     
  3. It boosts skin health and helps regulate your body temperature
    A dehydrated skin is a vulnerable skin, water is essential for maintaining elasticity and promotes a healthy complexion, also prevents premature wrinkles.  Water that is stored in layers of your skin comes to the skin's surface as sweat when your body heat rises too high. As this water evaporates, it cools your body down.
     
  4. It cushions the brain, spinal cord, and other sensitive tissues
    A hydrated brain is an effective brain.  Dehydration can affect brain structure and its functioning.  Water is involved in the production performance of hormones and neurotransmitters.

    As well as being essential for our digestive system, water also helps maintain healthy blood pressure and lubricates our airways, which help with allergies such as hay fever and conditions such as asthma.

In short your bodies need water to function properly, in fact every single cell and organ in your body needs water.


Our bodies have learnt to crave many things, not all of these are healthy or good for us.  In fact most of our learnt craving we can do without.  Our bodies do though have a few justified cravings, these are for essential life giving things such as; - fresh air, sunlight, clean water, whole foods and sleep.  Over the next four weeks we will take a really brief look at each of these things and how they benefit your health and wellbeing.  

 

Fresh air and walks in the sunshine

Taking fresh into your lungs is one of the most natural cravings for our bodies.  Fresh air helps your lungs to function more fully, walking increases your heart rate and also your breathing, enabling you to take deeper, longer breaths – which increases the amount of oxygen that is available in your blood, which is then transported to your brain and all around your body's cells.  People often report improved energy levels and greater clarity of mind from taking a walk outside.  Participants of an environmental psychology study, done in 2010, reported feeling happier, healthier and more alive when they spent time outside walking in nature.

Vitamin D is another reason to get outside.  Did you know there are molecules present in your skin that are activated by the sun, to produce this vitamin in your body?  Having enough vitamin D in your body is essential for your bones to form properly.  Vitamin D also helps maintain the calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood and promotes healthier skin.

Sunlight is also associated with increased serotonin levels in the brain, which is known to help ward off depression and stress.  This ‘happy’ chemical serotonin is higher in the brain during the times of the year when the days are longer.

We have certainly had a good deal of sunshine recently and more than is usual for this time of year, so all the more reason to get outside and get walking.

February

Anchors have many uses and in the most general sense anchors are used to secure something that is movable to something that is fixed.

So here are a couple of definitions that I thought may be helpful for this exercise:-

An anchor is a device, normally made of metal, used to connect a vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the craft from drifting due to wind or current. 

In rock climbing, an anchor can be any device or method for attaching a climber, a rope, or a load to the climbing surface - typically rock, ice, steep dirt, or a building - either permanently or temporarily.

So both of these descriptions I think are good analogies for what I want us to explore.

I invite you to take a moment (so this is by yourself and in a quiet place) to think about what your anchors are.  Take a piece of paper and draw a big circle on it, big enough to fill the page.  So the object of this exercise is for you to symbolise (using drawing, colour or written words) the things that make you feel safe, the things that make you feel calm and the things that make you feel grounded.  You can do this in any way you choose, there are no rules here, just an objective…to express what your anchors are?

Now I would like you to think of the challenges you currently face, or the things that are currently unsettling you.  Just as the climber uses an anchor to hold her weight (should she fall) as she climbs up to the next level, imagine your anchors as securing you whilst you move up to the next level, or move through your current challenges – whatever they may be for you.  Or it may be even to stay still and be immovable (as the boat on the water) - if your challenge is maybe feeling like you are being swept along by a strong tide, this might be the pace of life, stresses you are experiencing or even fast moving transitions in your life that are going on around you.  Thinking about your anchors and imagining yourself securely attached to them, just as the climber is attached to the rock face or the boat secured to the sea bed in the storm, using this exercise to remind yourself that you are never alone, you always have an anchor that will help you to feel safer, more secure and more grounded as you face your challenges through life, in whatever direction they leads you.

 

January

Well-being message from our Well-Being Mentor, Emma Williams: There is so much research that analyses and records screen time or time spent on mobile devises. Although there is some variation in the recorded figures. According to eMarketer, 22% of mobile phone time is taken up by texting, 22% by phone calls, and 10% by email. This would mean we spend, on average, about 55 minutes a day texting, 55 minutes a day on phone calls, and 25 minutes a day on mobile email. What the research also seems to show is the exponential rise in usage over the last few years, with figures almost doubling between 2012 and 2018. So looking through the research and gathering evidence into why not to spend time on these devises, I came across theses common themes: Better sleep It is now widely recognised that for many reasons any sort of screen time before bed can negatively impact your sleep, and it seems that phones are particularly bad for this. More free time It goes without saying that if we are spending so much time on our phone, wouldn’t it also go without saying that this time could be used to do other things, or even do nothing. I hear so many time girls say I have no time to myself, no time to relax. I would like to put it to you that if the benefits here are seen for not using your phones then the argument that ‘I use my phone to relax’ doesn’t seem to hold water. Increased productivity Everybody procrastinates from time to time, and believe it or not, in small doses, procrastination is healthy. Nowadays though it is being reported more and more as a problem for people. It does seem that smartphones are largely to blame. Numerous studies showing the negative effect of smartphones on our productivity. 

 

Less comparison Social media encourages a culture of ‘compare and comparison’. When I was growing up I remember doing everything I could to not be like everyone else, there was something special about celebrating uniqueness. Nowadays everyone seems to want to look the same and have all the same things. Compare and comparison is the thief of joy. 

More Social Smart phones propose a great social life, actually what they deliver is something very different. Cyber or virtual chat actually encourages isolation and encourages inauthentic communication, which leads to false relationships and feelings of loneliness. Talking to someone face to face, meeting up with them and having ‘real’ time together encourages authenticity and ‘true’ relationships. “People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.” Joseph F Newton The advantages of putting down your phone described here also lead to decreased levels of anxiety, encourage and enhances levels of awareness, which in turn promote personal growth. What better reason to put down you device and engage with the world around you. Build yourself some bridges. 

 

Homemade cold remedy

With all this cold weather and more on the way, here is a natural way to fight off a cold or flu. Lemons: Are high in vitamin C, which helps to keeps the immune system strong and also neutralizes the free radicals in your body. Ginger: Helps you sweat out the toxins that have built up in your body whilst the cold or flu virus has taken hold. Ginger is also helpful for settling upset stomachs, for reducing dizziness, nausea, and cold sweats. Honey: Is very soothing, especially for a sore throat, which is why often medicines contain honey as it is an effective and natural cough suppressant. Honey also improves the body’s ability to fight infection and decreases the risk of fevers. Honey is obviously naturally very sweet and also balances the sharpness/acidity. These flavours are also complimentary, making this remedy very palatable. Cloves: act as an antiseptic, anti-fungal, antibacterial, antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and they can also help heal and are used to treat coughs, Ingredients • 2 lemons (washed and dried) • 2 piece of fresh ginger (about 3 inches of root - per piece) • 250g of runny honey (preferably raw honey) • 12oz jar or container • 30g jar of cloves Directions 1. Slice the lemons and the ginger into thin slices. 2. Place into a/or container jar, alternating the layers of lemon and ginger. 3. Now pour honey over the lemon and ginger. Make sure the honey coats the lemon and ginger slices, and fills the jar to the top. Then seal tightly. 4. Store in the refrigerator overnight - the mixture will start to form into a soft jelly. 5. Scoop 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture into a mug full of freshly boiled water – try to get some of the pieces of ginger and lemon too. 6. Add a couple of cloves to each cup of remedy. 7. Let this brew for a few minutes, maybe 3-4, and then sip until gone. You can make this immune boosting, remedy at any time and it should store successfully in the fridge for at least a month.

Well-being message from our Well-Being Mentor, Emma Williams:

Exercise is an excellent way to reduce stress, this is true for several reasons:

  • Exercise helps release built-up tension in the body and helps release emotional tension too.
  • Exercise releases endorphins and other ‘happy hormones’ in your body, promoting a feeling of wellbeing.
  • Exercise helps promote overall health and wellbeing, which can also lessen your experience of stress.
     

Some forms of exercise have a strong social element, which can also be great for stress reduction.  Exercise can also raise feelings of self-esteem and bring other benefits that improve quality of life.

This time of year can be tough when it comes to motivating ourselves to get active and exercise.  Maybe you feel too tired, maybe you’d rather get home and get in the warm.  So lack of motivation can easily hinder our vision for a more active lifestyle.  What I want to encourage you to remember is that initially the reward may be a delayed one.  When you commit to take up a new activity of exercise you often get the ‘feel good factor’ and the ‘more energy’ afterwards.  Try to exercise with a friend of family member so you can encourage each other; make a pledge that when one or both of you feels as though you can’t be bothered, that you encourage one another to press on and ‘Go For It’.

You don’t have to join a gym or join a team, going for a walk together, or taking the dog for a long walk can have tremendous benefits both physically and mentally. Exercise wakes us up, it makes us feel more energetic and encourages a positive mood.  Physically active people are more likely to be energetic and alert, and are generally more likely to be more concerned with their overall health and well-being, including heathy eating and a healthier lifestyle.  A reward for all your hard work will most certainly include a sense of overall wellbeing and a sense of achievement.

Here are a few more benefits:-

 

  • stronger bones and muscles and improved posture
  • more mobility and greater flexibility
  • increased endurance – able to keep going for longer
  • more spatially aware and more comfortable in your own body
  • greater resource of energy and less prone to illness
  • stronger, healthier heart and lung function.
     

Exercise doesn’t have to cost money, there are plenty of free resources to take advantage of, and https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/ has plenty of useful information about exercise ideas that are free and can be done anywhere.  For more free information try these links N.H.S Get fit for free or start running with the N.H.S Couch to 5K podcasts

December 2018

Very nearly the end of term now!  This is the final well-being message for 2018 and I just wanted to touch on the spirit of Christmas, that of giving.  A few words that hopefully will encourage you to look around and see how you can make a difference.

Society in so many ways conditions us to receive, to accumulate more stuff, higher status and greater wealth; western society is becoming more and more materialistic.  There is nothing wrong with having a good life, money and nice things, but if we look to those things to bring us joy and happiness we will always, eventually be disappointed.

True joy is not found in receiving stuff, in material things, true joy comes from within because of what we believe about life, so is more about the position of our hearts. Someone once told me a few years ago “If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world.”  I remember how that shocked me and at the time.  I am not sure how true that percentage is today, but I certainly trusted the person who told me at the time to be accurate.  We know that the gap between great riches and poverty is ever increasing so the percentage certainly won’t be less today.

Whatever we do have or do not have in life, we can be sure that someone, somewhere in the world has less.

I’m sure you all have a colourful Christmas list and are very excited about opening your presents on Christmas morning; of course you are and that is lovely.

Can I encourage you to take a moment at some point over Christmas to think about your giving; who do you give to and why?  Are there people you know, maybe who live close by who could really benefit from some help, or an act of kindness, this Christmas time?

The Apostle Paul tells us in (The Bible) 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, that God loves a cheerful giver, he says that he who gives should give from a good heart, not grudgingly or out of a sense of duty.

There are some wonderful benefits to be experienced through giving, not only from a heartfelt perspective, but also a heart health and well-being one too.

Giving to others and that includes helping others feels good.  When you give to, or help, others, it promotes positive psychological changes in your brain, which are associated with a sense of well-being and happiness.  Looking to the needs of others also help us to gain new perspectives on our own lives and our personal outlooks.  Giving to, or helping, others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves, helps us to take our focus off what is missing in our own lives and makes us more grateful for what we already have.  In turn this can help us to gain a realistic and healthy perspective on the things that cause us stress, helping to reduce our stress levels.

Acts of kindness, even the small ones, have potential to make the world a better place and even though we cannot change the whole world by giving something or helping someone, we may change one person’s whole day or one person’s life in some way and that is priceless.

Whether you help an elderly person carry their shopping to the car, offer to sweep up the leaves for a neighbour, or maybe visit someone in a care home.  As well as improving their quality of life (even if just for that day) you will also improve your sense of self-worth and confidence.  Giving can improve your calmness in the here and now and your optimism about the future.  It also models to others that they too can contribute towards a more positive community.  Giving from a pure heart demonstrates love and elicits gratitude, which in turn promotes a sense of happiness and well-being both in your own life and the lives of others.

November 2018

Authentic Friendships

Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit. - Aristotle

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” - C.S. Lewis

I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together.  Powerful stuff. - Jon Katz

A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow. - William Shakespeare

 

As we get older making authentic connections with others becomes harder, developing and maintaining genuine lasting friendships takes more effort.

 

A few things to consider when we think about our more valued friendships is to think about our investment, a bit like putting a few pounds away each week into you savings account, one day you will see some real value in the saving.

 

The investment here though is not just about giving to the friendship in practical ways that is obviously an extremely valuable part of friendship. The investment I want to focus on here is more about considering your role in the relationship and taking responsibility for your part in the ‘whole’ relationship, which includes the highs and the lows.

 

A few principles you can consider that will help you be a more authentic self in your friendships:-

 

  • I want to ensure that your perspective of me is trustworthy
  • I’m human and fallible, I sometimes make mistakes
  • You too can make mistakes
  • I don’t expect you to be perfect
  • Making ‘mistakes’ is part of relationships
  • You can tell me if I react in an inappropriate way in the future and I won’t fall apart
  • I don’t always recognise immediately the impact of what I’ve said or done, sometimes that comes through a time of reflection
  • We can always revisit something that is troubling us.

 

Being an authentic friend is not just about listening to yourself, but also being prepared to listen to other people’s perspective or perceptions of you, and being open to acknowledge it when there may be something they need to tell you about their experience of you. Feedback doesn’t define you, but it can inform you how to be a more authentic friend in the future.

 

Defining Effective Personal Boundaries

Clear and healthy boundaries are critical to living a healthy, fulfilled life.  A lack of boundaries will pull you away from being your best.  This quick guide will help you identify key boundaries that may need some of your attention and will provide some practical tips to get you started thinking about setting and maintaining those boundaries.

 

What are Boundaries?

The purpose of personal boundaries are to protect and honour important parts of our lives. We set them to clarify what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviours from others.  Just as a fence protects and preserves our real property, so should personal boundaries protect our personal selves.

 

Key Areas to Protect Using Boundaries
 

  • Private/Personal space – This is the space directly surrounding and includes our physical bodies.  This space (within the invisible line that separates us from others) protects our physical bodies and helps us to feel safe within ourselves. As we grow we develop a sense of ‘personal space’ and sense of privacy which is unique to each of us.  We usually feel uncomfortable when someone ‘crosses over’ or ‘enters into’ this virtual boundary – ‘our space’.  Some people have a need for a ‘greater’ space than others; some need very little and are okay with closeness.  However, it is important to develop our own ‘healthy’ boundary in terms of what is allowable and how close we allow others to get alongside us.  Some people like a hand shake, some people like a hug, what do you like?

    Another example of ‘space’ might be your bedroom.  This is a special place for you and should be a space which you can take some ownership of.  If others invade this space without being asked in, this can leave you feeling disempowered and even intruded upon.
     
  • Emotions – Emotions control your thinking, behaviour and actions.  Emotions can affect your physical bodies too.  Negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, negativity, frustration and depression cause chemical reactions in your body that are very different from the chemicals released when you feel positive emotions such as happiness, contentment, feeling loved and accepted.  Emotions should be protected.  Often, people in our lives may say or do hurtful things (often unintentional) and unfortunately this can affect our emotions and hurt us internally.
     
  • Energy – Energy is a source of fuel which enables us to function.  In addition to food energy can come from many sources; sleep, our “quiet time”, being relaxed, activities that invigorate us can also re-energize us.  When others do or say things that drain us of this energy (such as invade our privacy, create turmoil or make unreasonable demands) we are less likely to function effectively.
     
  • Your personal values or other areas of importance to you – Anything in our life that is important to us (such as our personal values, needs, family, etc.) are all areas that can benefit from effective boundaries, anything you feel is worth protecting.
     
  • Time – Time is valuable, we each have a limited amount of time we can dedicate to certain things.  Learning to apportion appropriate time to tasks and things that demand out attention can be tricky.  We also need to leave some time for ourselves to wind down or to do something we enjoy “just being”.  When we do not leave enough time for ourselves we risk ‘burning out’ and this means that we are less effective and less able to function effectively.
     

So my question to you is “what are the boundaries in your life that might need some attention”? There are a number of ways to create and respect boundaries that are important to us.
 

Here are just a few examples:
 

  • Be clear about the boundary to both yourself and others.  Make sure you have been thoughtful about the boundary issue and have defined for yourself and others what is acceptable and unacceptable.
     
  • Once a boundary has been crossed, remind the other person of your boundary and ask for their help in maintaining that boundary in the future.
     
  • If the person continues to disrespect the boundary, ask them firmly and politely for the behaviour to stop.  If the behaviour continues, consider what further action is appropriate to stop repetition of the behaviour.  Remember that while you may be firm, you should also remain respectful of the other person.
     
  • Identify ways to position yourself in a time and place that minimizes the opportunity for your boundaries to be crossed.
     
  • Thank those people around you who respect your boundaries and thank those who have respected your requests to start observing/noticing your boundaries.
     
  • Always seek to understand and respect the boundaries of others.
     

And remember always seek to understand and respect the boundaries of others, that way we are able to become more considerate and kind.  Setting effective boundaries is not about being mean or selfish, but more about helping us to be respectful of ourselves and of others and to strive to become our best selves.

 

October 2018

Communicating emotions

I may be stating the obvious, but emotions are part of life, they are part of us.  In many ways we can’t help feeling them.  Problems often start when we don’t know what to do with them.

So what are emotions?  I like this definition:-

“A psychological state that arises subjectively, rather than through conscious effort and often accompanied by physiological changes; feelings.”

Sometimes we are happy, sometimes we feel fed up or sad, sometimes we are confused, sometimes we say things we don’t really mean.  Sometimes our emotions seem illogical as they don’t necessarily represent what is going on around us at the time.  This can make things really tough for us as we grow up.  In many way we are not able to fully process or distinguish our emotions until we reach our early 20’s, this is because certain parts of the brain are not fully mature enough to do that job effectively.  When an emotionally mature person experiences a negative emotion, generally they are able to reflect on what has made them feel that way. Then they can then decide what steps to take to change or improve that situation or attitude.

What I hear a lot of when talking with young people is that they feel misunderstood.  This can be extremely discouraging and limiting to finding resolutions and moving forward.  I am always encouraging people to talk to one another and to share feelings and it’s probably one of my most commonly used encouragements.  However, when someone is brave enough to share their feelings they really want the person they are talking to hear and to understand what you are trying to communicate.

Feeling heard and understood doesn’t mean the person listening has to fix the problem or come up with a perfect solution to the problem.  Sometimes advice is helpful, but most of the time it really is just about listening and trying to understand.  When a person feels really heard it helps them to process their emotions more fully and will often help them to work out their own solution.

To help one another deal with emotions it’s important for us all to develop empathy.  Empathy is listening with your heart as well as your head.  When you listen with empathy you let the other person know that you’ve really heard them.

So here’s a little test - what type of listener are you?  Are you apathetic, sympathetic, or empathetic?

Apathy = I don’t really care (communicates a lack of concern or interest in the other person)

Sympathy = Oh, I am so sorry, you poor thing (feeling sorry for, often keeps the person stuck)

Empathy = Sounds like you are really afraid of leaving your friends (communicates feeling ‘with’ the person, yet remaining separate)

When you are sad, angry, depressed or confused sometimes all you need is a listening ear, you may just want someone to listen with empathy to you as you express your feelings, without giving advice of judging the situation.

Allowing others to express their feelings without reflecting judgment or disapproval can help them to move on and is often all that is needed.