This week I found myself driving in the crowded congestion of the M6 motorway. I had a long drive ahead of me and found myself quietly fuming at the constant stopping and starting of traffic. As the minutes went by I started cursing the modern overcrowded state of our motorways. Now at that point my brain began to get tangled up in a negative snowball of thoughts. And the more it went on the more I felt annoyed and frustrated. “Why are our motorways so awful? Why are there so many more cars?
An old saying goes, “Listen carefully to how a person speaks about other people to you. This is how they will speak about you to other people." In fact, according to recent psychological research, the way a person speaks about others can also shine a light on their personality, their overall mental well-being and how others see them. (This is not about moments of justifiable criticism – it’s about how we describe other people on a regular basis).
When people become depressed they also tend to suffer with sleeplessness. For years, the standard view was that the depression caused the sleep problem. However, more recent studies suggest that the relationship works both ways – depression influences sleep problems and at the same time these sleep problems can fuel further depression. This has some important implications for treatment.
Is your glass half-empty or half-full? Many psychologists believe that your answer to this question depends on what you regularly focus on. If you routinely focus on negative things and complain about them then, no surprises here, you will be a grouch. And you will never run out of things to complain about. It is like driving through life and all of your attention is focused on the dead flies and smears on your windscreen. You miss out on the scenery.
Are you procrastinating your life away? Are you forever putting things off until tomorrow? If you are, then you won’t be surprised to hear that you are probably underachieving in your life. However, the research also tells us that if you chronically procrastinate you are more likely to experience stress and other health problems. How does that work?
Throughout history people have been writing diaries. There’s nothing new about it. But what is new is that psychological research has highlighted that diary writing for just five or ten minutes a day can have a really powerful impact on our physical and psychological well-being.
We all know that taking a walk in nature is good for us. We move our body and our mind slows down. We feel refreshed. As if this wasn’t enough, recent scientific research has shed light on some of the less obvious benefits.
Imagine a medical epidemic, like mumps or flu, which affected one in four people and left the sufferers in distress, discomfort and affected their ability to get on with their day. And now, in this imaginary situation, consider that half of the people affected were reluctant to seek help for their suffering.
In stressful moments we have no control over our racing heart, our surge in blood sugar, or the levels of stress hormones in our body. However, there are two things which can counteract the levels of anxiety which we do have control over. Firstly, taking slow, deep, ‘belly’ breaths can slow our body’s anxious state. The second thing we have control over is our smile.
We all know, but tend to forget, that just because we are not sick or ill, this does not mean that we are physically fit and healthy. It’s exactly the same when it comes to our mental health. Having good mental health usually involves having the resilience to deal with life’s slings and arrows, and to experience a sense of purpose and positive well-being. Psychologists call this positive state of mental well-being ‘thriving’ or ‘flourishing’.