The world of psychology is overflowing with literature on how to live a good life and be happy. Who doesn’t want to be happy? The problem is that often people look in the wrong places. For example, many people think that the road to happiness involves great achievement, in either academic performance or in their career. Other people search for happiness in trying to make sure they have plenty of money and material comfort or possessions. However, it is possible to become very successful and very rich and still be entirely unhappy.
We are all becoming increasingly aware of the impact of smartphones in our lives. They are truly amazing inventions. A phone, a camera, a message system, a portal to all the knowledge in the world, a social meeting place, a map, a music and video player and countless other games and online tools. But the cost is that they are becoming increasingly addictive. Like all addictions, they get in the way of being able to live a rich and rewarding life. We check them first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
Has 2016 flown by for you? Is that because you were having fun, or is it because you are getting older? Interestingly, psychological research suggests that we all experience the passing of time differently, and that doing lots of new things may be the key to subjectively slowing time down.
[Guest author - Sarah Counter, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist with Outlook South West]
We all know that exercise is good for us, research shows that physical activity can boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing the chances of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However sometimes it can be hard to engage in mainstream exercise for various reasons such as illness and as such we can find ourselves inactive with reduced mobility which can have a significant impact on mood.
Many of us can become pretty spooked out by not knowing what is around the corner. Life is full of unknowns, such as facing job threats, health scares, financial worries or political decisions. We fear having to leave our comfort bubble and our mind goes into overdrive with negative predictions. What can we do?
How often do you experience a real sense of gratitude? This can be either having a sense of being grateful for just being alive or being thankful to others around you for what they bring to your life.
The last ten years have seen a host of research studies looking at the benefits of gratitude. People trained to cultivate gratitude appear to deal with stress better, have more sleep and improved physical and mental health. Cultivating gratitude might sound ‘cheesy’ but it is pretty strong medicine.
Mindfulness has been shown to increase our resilience to stress and it can be an effective treatment for depression. So, what is it all about? It sounds mysterious but it is, in fact, very simple. Basically, it involves becoming quiet and focusing on just one thing at a time. You can try the following mindful eating exercise as an example. You just sit down at a table, switch off the TV, and slowly focus on the experience of tasting, smelling and eating a small meal.
As Dr Phil is fond of saying, “Life is not the pizza man – it doesn’t deliver”. We all know that we get out of life what we put into it. If you want to improve your physical and mental well-being you might want to explore the following steps.
Do you have any area of your life, which if you could address or overcome it, would make your life better or easier? Actually, most people can identify some area of their life that feels a bit ‘stuck’ – and although each type of ‘stuckness’ will be different, there will be one common ingredient. This common ingredient is our tendency to avoid emotional discomfort.
When was the last time you experienced a sense of awe? It isn’t a feeling that we encounter very often and it is quite hard to put into words. Interestingly, psychologists are starting to study the impact of awe on people and the results are starting to look interesting.