Mind the gap

When the Buddha set out his noble truths, which form the basis of Buddhism he established that 1. All is suffering and 2. The cause of suffering is desire.

Modern psychology also agrees that it is part of our human nature to always want more. It seems to me that our capitalist and consumerist society is based on these principles and when we buy into them we end up “living in the gap”. The gap between where we are in life and where we would like to be. This is a painful place of dissatisfaction, envy, self-pity and frustration.

There always seems to be something missing, a new car, a bigger house, a better job, more time with friends, more fancy holidays, clothes, experiences, etc. But have you noticed that when you acquire the new things, desire doesn’t stop. At least not for long.

Soon the new clothes are old, the holiday has been and gone and there is another new job or even bigger house on your wish list.

It is not only material things we desire, it is feelings and states of mind as well. If you think about it, what is it you hope that the new job or car is going to bring you? Happiness? Joy? Peace? These states can not be obtained by outside circumstances. This is like the biggest scam in our human lives. We all go around believing that we can make ourselves happier by achieving and / or acquiring things. But this is impossible, for as long as we rely on things outside of ourselves, we live in the gap.

When we want things to be different than they are, we are living in the gap. We are actually disagreeing with reality. What could be more painful or more futile? If you are stuck in an unpleasant situation, does it help to disagree with it? It is basically a childish response, like a toddler throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get their way. It is disempowering, upsetting and completely pointless.

 

Here are some ways to help you get out of the gap and into the Now:

 

  • Practice Mindfulness. Paying attention to the here and now, in a non-judgemental way teaches us acceptance. It helps us get used to being in this life, as it really is, rather than fantasising about how we would like it to be. It helps retrain our minds from labelling everything as “good” or “bad” to simply noticing what is.
  • Practice gratitude. A regular practice of gratitude helps us to focus on the things we do have rather than what we don’t. It trains us to look for the positive. It gets us out of autopilot mode, where we take things for granted so that we can start to appreciate the extraordinary in our lives.
  • Take considered action. If there really are things in your life you would like to change, of course it is a good idea to do so. It is healthy to have goals and dreams and to work towards achieving them. The important thing is making sure these goals are your own (not pressure from outside) and that they are not the be all and end all of your life. If you can enjoy the journey towards the goal as much as attaining the goal itself, you are free to be happy every day along the way.

 

If you would like to explore how you can get out of the gap and live a more fulfilled life, contact me for a free trial appointment:

Why your health should be your number one priority

As a counsellor I often ask people I work with what their main priorities are in life and what they would like to focus on. Health is rarely top of the list, if it’s even on there at all.

I often find myself reminding clients that their health is their number one asset. It is the foundation upon which you build your life. Without your health it may be very difficult to do all the things you want to do and to enjoy life to the fullest.

Looking after ourselves inside and out is a fundamental part of living a happy, fulfilled life. So, why are so many of us neglecting our own wellbeing?

I know that those of us who are lucky enough to enjoy good health and freedom from illness or symptoms often neglect our health. I also know that for those who have been diagnosed with conditions and / or suffer from symptoms, it can be that much harder to take control, find motivation and really commit to a plan for promoting health.

There are many factors that contribute to good health and they all interact with each other in different ways. It’s important to create a holistic and realistic plan that suits your  needs and lifestyle. Regardless of your current circumstances, there are things that you can do every day to improve your health, build a strong foundation and be the most well you can be. The most important thing is to discover what is stopping you from investing in your health. This is often a deep-rooted feeling of not being worthy or good enough. Working through these limiting beliefs can help create an attitude of worthiness, so that you can start to treat yourself with utmost respect and care.

Some of the main elements for promoting good health are:

  • Diet. Make sure that you are eating a balanced diet that is right for you. This can include specific supplements to help with particular issues. It can involve calorie control if you are trying to lose weight for health reasons. For most of us it should include eating lots of fresh, non-processed food. If you are choosing to avoid any food group for ethical or allergy reasons, you need to make sure that you educate yourself on how to get all the nutrients you need. Another main element of a healthy diet is to develop a healthy relationship with food. Too many people have learned bad habits of calorie control, yo-yo dieting, avoiding “forbidden” foods or overeating. These behaviours are usually driven by emotional issues and can only be resolved through addressing the root cause. If you find yourself unable to stick to your decision to eat healthily eating despite wanting to, consider talking to someone and try to resolve unconscious emotional eating habits.

 

  • Movement. As the word exercise can be off-putting to some, the NHS are increasingly using the word “movement” instead. The idea is obviously to promote healthy movement. What that means is going to be different for everyone, depending on physical ability, personal preference, lifestyle, time commitments etc. The main thing is finding a way of moving that is safe and enjoyable for you. This can take a little trial and error and it can be worth talking to a coach or trainer to help you create a program that is right for you. You should also always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

 

  • Relaxation. Modern science and medicine are finding new evidence every day that shows the harmful effects of stress on our bodies and minds. There are many ways to relax and do something for you. The trouble is to fit it in to your day and make it a priority. Whether you would like to try mindfulness, fit in time for reading with a cuppa, enjoy a leisurely stroll in nature or take up a new hobby, the main thing is to make it a priority, commit to your decision, make a plan and stick to it.

 

  • Sleep. Too many of us neglect our sleep. There are many things you can put in place to improve the quality of your sleep and many people are surprised to find what unexpected benefits this has to their health. The bottom line is that humans need sleep and while we can get away with neglecting it for short periods, long-term sleep deprivation has serious effects on our physical as well as mental health. Going to bed and waking at similar times every day and creating a relaxing ritual for winding down before bed are some of the things that can help improve your sleep.

 

  • Connection. An often overlooked area for promoting health is the quality of our connection to ourselves as well as others. As humans we are social creatures and research shows that people who have good quality relationships live longer and enjoy better health. There are many reasons why our relationships can be strained and loneliness is a problem affecting 9 million adults in the UK, according to the campaign to end loneliness. Talking to someone about your feelings and finding ways to be more authentic with yourselves and others can help improve your relationships and reduce loneliness.

 

If you would like to talk about what’s getting in the way of you prioritising yourself and your health, contact me for a free consultation.

 

 

A mindfulness based approach to counselling

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a counsellor. As a child, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I pictured myself sitting with someone and helping them figure things out in a deeply meaningful way.

As I grew up I didn’t have a term for this and I couldn’t find a job title or an education that quite fitted my internal image. So I went travelling instead. I studied people, cultures and languages as well as spiritual practices and philosophy until one day I came across the term counselling and I knew that was the right job for me.

I studied counselling and psychotherapy at Edinburgh University, to get a solid foundation for working with people in a therapeutic way, using psycho-dynamic and person-centred principles. Then I went on to do continuing professional development with the Interfaith Seminary where I learned about implementing a mindfulness-based approach that takes the soul or higher self into account.

Using a mindfulness-based approach adds another dimension to regular counselling. It aims to go beyond the mind to a deeper place, where truth and connection can be found. As human beings we tend to spend a lot of our time being led by our minds, getting caught up in thinking and even identifying with the thoughts that the mind produces. This can be confusing and sometimes painful, when the thoughts we are having are triggering feelings like fear, guilt, anger or hopelessness.

When we learn to connect to a place beyond the mind, we can learn to process and understand our thought and emotions, whilst not identifying with them. We can also learn to have compassion for ourselves as we realise that we are something more than the sum of our thoughts, actions and experiences.

What that something is, whether you call it your soul, inner self, awareness or something else, is totally up to you. Some people may even experience a connection to something beyond themselves, like a powerful force for good, infinite intelligence, divine presence or universal consciousness. Again, what you choose to call this experience is completely up to you. The main thing is to have a direct experience of that deeper place within and find discover what truths it holds for you.

My job as a counsellor is to guide, accompany and facilitate your journey within. I do not tell you what to believe, but allow you to discover your own truth and help you to find ways to live that truth in the world. Working from an Interfaith approach I have an awareness and understanding of the world’s faith traditions and will work with you in a way that is respectful and inclusive of your beliefs, whether you identify as religious, spiritual, atheist or agnostic.

Counselling is a deeply therapeutic process, which can help with things like:

  • Discovering your purpose and figuring out what you want in life
  • Resolving past issues and finding ways to move on
  • Coping with loss of a loved one, relationship or job
  • Managing transitions like changing careers, having a baby or living with an illness
  • Uncovering limiting beliefs and freeing yourself from things that are holding you back
  • Dealing with addiction or self sabotaging behaviour
  • Relationship issues
  • Building confidence & self-esteem
  • Improving mental health & wellbeing

If you think that counselling might be right for you, contact me via the form below for a free initial appointment to find out more

 

True Happiness – and how to achieve it

In my native language, Swedish, there are two words for happiness. One is glädje – used to describe the fleeting joy we might feel as we tuck in to an ice cream or enjoy a stroll on the beach or even get a new car or a work promotion. This feeling is reliant on our circumstances and when those circumstances change, so does our mood.

Chasing this kind of illusive happiness is the foundation of capitalism, the source of the epidemic levels of stress in our society and according to the Buddha, the root cause of human suffering.

The other word is lycka – used to describe the deep-rooted feeling of inner peace and contentment that does not rely on outside circumstances. This feeling occurs when we are in alignment with ourselves, connected to our truth and aware of the perfection of All That Is.

This feeling might be rare and difficult to attain as well as hang on to but in my experience it is like a muscle that we can train. The  more we cultivate this feeling, the more we learn to conjure it up at will and live our life from this foundation of inner peace, confidence and trust.

In my spiritual counselling work I use a process for cultivating true, lasting happiness, using these three main tools:

  1. Process the Past. We all have unprocessed feelings, thoughts and experiences that are affecting us in different ways. Some of these ways might be obvious to us, but we may not know what to do about it. Some might also be completely unconscious and keeping them hidden from ourselves can drain us of energy as we go about our daily lives. Through talking about our feelings and thoughts we can become aware of how things are affecting us and begin to make our peace with the past. Once we understand how the ways we are behaving today are directly linked to things that happened in the past, we begin to have a choice in how we react to things now.
  2. Focus on the Future. We all need to have a sense of purpose in life. If we don’t have a real connection to our reason for being here, on this earth, it becomes very difficult to motivate ourselves, day after day, year after year. Life can feel overwhelming and exhausting and we can lack resilience to cope when things don’t go our way. Finding and focusing on our deeper purpose can help us gain a healthy perspective, give us the strength and inner resources to keep going when things are tough. It also gives us confidence and a deep sense of achievement, knowing that we are on the right path in life.
  3. Nourish the Now. The final and crucial practice for cultivating a deep sense of contentment is through mindfulness and introspection. Using mindfulness based techniques regularly helps us connect to a deeper sense of peace. Taking time to slow down and focus on our direct experience in the now helps our bodies deal with stress, our minds think clearly and our souls rejuvenate. Having a relationship with our innermost selves and whatever our sense is of the source of our being, gives us a deep sense of fulfilment, comfort and true happiness.

 

In my sessions I use a balance of these three approaches, to help you find your own happiness and inner peace.

Contact me to book your free trial session now

 

Mental health 101

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, as a counsellor  with over 12 years experience of working in mental health and social care, it is that mental health is a very difficult subject. The stigma in society is still very noticeable and people who suffer with mental health conditions don’t always receive the same understanding and recognition as people who suffer from physical ailments. Old values and misconceptions still underpin individual’s as well as the media’s understanding, which casts an even greater shadow on those who are struggling with their mental health every day.

The truth is that mental health is a spectrum. We all have mental health and like our physical health, it ranges from great to not so great. It can also be fluctuating and confusing. While there definitely are some hereditary and circumstantial factors involved, mental health conditions can affect anyone. 1 in 4 people in Britain experience some kind of mental health condition in any one year.

Many people are reluctant to seek help, as they are afraid of ending up in “the system”, being diagnosed and given an unhelpful label or end up on medication, which can be addictive and difficult to come off.

However, there are other ways to manage mental health. There is no one size fits all and usually people find a combination of things can help support them in their recovery:

  • Talk about your feelingsMost people have unprocessed feelings and experiences from the past. These feelings can be incredibly painful and our instinct is to try to avoid them. However, these painful feelings are unlikely to go away until they have been expressed and processed. Talking about them with a professional or a friend can help you come to terms with your past, recognise how you have been shaped by it and find the best ways to support yourself now.
  • Look after yourself. We all know by now that our bodies and minds are a connected, complicated system. In order to experience optimal health we need to look after ourselves on every level. This includes obvious things like diet, exercise, sleep and managing stress levels as well as more intangible things like hobbies, daily habits and connections with others. I have worked with people who have created their own unique treatments plans, which included things like getting a cat, joining a hill-walking group, taking particular supplements, wearing bright coloured clothes, swimming in the sea, travelling to other countries, taking a nap every day, volunteering, avoiding loud places and doing stand up comedy. Only you can work out what is best for you.
  • Change your inner dialogue. Your inner dialogue is how you talk to yourself. Most of us have a habit of criticising and talking down to ourselves in a way we would never dream of doing to anyone else. This inner critic is a bit like a bully who is constantly putting us down and undermining our efforts. Part of my work with individuals is about challenging this critical voice and finding a more supportive and loving one. Unsurprisingly this has a major impact on a persons self-esteem, confidence and mood.
  • Distract yourself. Sometimes living with a mental health condition can feel like being a prisoner of your own thoughts. Ruminating about the past or dreading the future doesn’t help and sometimes it can paralyse you in the moment. In these moments, however difficult it seems, it is important to just do something, anything to break out of the cycle of thinking. Put your shoes on and get out for a walk, pick up the phone and call a friend or watch a funny program on TV. Whatever you do, give your mind a rest so that you can gain some perspective and return to your problems with a fresh view.

If you would like some support with your mental health, please contact me for a confidential counselling appointment.