More tips to help survive Christmas!

imagesWell, we say ‘survive’ but really it is all a matter of planning, arranging and agreeing to a festive season that suits your needs whilst supporting other family members and friends who might also find Christmas a difficult time.

December, for example, is a month in which many relationships struggle as the stress of organising who goes where when and with what becomes simply overwhelming. Jane Gotto here at The Terrace has always worked to pull together all the best Christmas tips that she has used over many years of working in relationship and couples counselling and today we wanted to share a few more, as we approach the last week before the ‘big day’.

Today we want you look at whether you are a classic Christmas ‘grump’ ‘Grinch’ or Ebeneezer Scrooge. 

Is there  a reason (either in the recent past  or back in your family history) why Christmas lowers your mood. Were you ‘made’ to feel the Christmas Spirit, or forced to continue in a particular ritual without enjoying it?  Or was there an event which still evokes difficult memories? These are all ‘Christmas Spirit killers’ and understandably so.
You might want to create your own ritual – one that is personal and authentic and connects you to who you actually are, rather than joining the Christmas mad rush.

Pay particular attention to what is important to you; you may want to see special friend(s) or spend time with one member of your family rather than all of them.

Think about planning and preparing a meal you enjoy, or creating your own spiritual practice – meditation or quiet time can be important as a hectic day threatens to overwhelm. There is nothing wrong with taking time to read a book or watch a film that interests you or simply spending time alone.

Remember, getting it right for you often gets it right for others too.

Do you have any Christmas tips you can share with us here at The Terrace? We would love to hear from you.

Action for Happiness – will it work? We have to try….

images (3)Two weeks ago we heard that the Dalai Lama has given his support to the Exploring What Matters course established by the Action for Happiness project, started in 2010  by Richard Layard, Geoff Mulgan and Anthony Seldon. He is  AfH’s official Patron, endorsing its key beliefs:

1. We can each affect our happiness and the happiness of those around us
2. We need to prioritise the things that cause happiness
3. Helping others is essential for a happier society

The project was proud to publicise a quote given by the Dalai Lama to the BBC:

‘I wholeheartedly support the Exploring What Matters course and hope that many thousands will benefit from it and take action to create a happier world’ ~ Dalai Lama

Now Action for Happiness wants to get the course into hundreds of communities and is running a crowdfunding campaign to back it up – it isn’t a profit making organisation so needs support (and volunteers) to get it off the ground.

It is easy to be cynical about something that seems to offer what appears to be a simple solution to the many problems in our society. Of course we affect the happiness of those around us, and it is never a bad thing to help others. But it is easy to forget those life enhancing things in a world that is so fast paced and driven towards commercial and personal success. We don’t always put the happiness of ourselves or others first.

Action for Happiness has what it calls a ‘Great Dream’ – offering 10 keys to happiness.

ImageGen

No one can argue with any of those terms as a means of finding life easier to cope with and more meaningful. It is a ‘great dream’, but small steps can be taken every day to achieve greater happiness, and we have to at least applaud the attempt to get us all to take stock of what is important to us.

Amongst other things, Action for Happiness suggests we take more notice of the world around us, connect with people and keep learning new things. It supports a mindful approach to life and the course it wants to take out into the world asks big questions, such as  What really matters in life? What actually makes us happy? and How should we treat others?

We were relieved to see that the project doesn’t expect those experiencing difficult times, depression or anxiety, to ‘pick themselves up’ and move on by themselves. It acknowledges that we all need help at some time and we need to ask for it when we are ‘stuck’ and can’t find a way through. In fact, there is a whole page on their website devoted to countering arguments put forward by sceptics who feel the whole idea is too simplistic and subjective.

So do take a look at the Action for Happiness website and let us know what you think. Do you have any concerns? We would love to know what you think.

Our view is that surely we have to try? The world seems to be going to the proverbial hell in a handcart at the moment, with our global humanity being lost in political maneuvering and brutal conflict. We think we know how to be happy, but it can’t hurt to remind ourselves every so often, can it?

Mindfulness in autumn – and a poem by May Sarton

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Autumn in Orton (c) Suzie Grogan

We have written recently about how autumn can be seriously good for your soul, and indeed it can. However, for many it is a melancholy time, when thoughts of loss, or of letting go are to the fore. Some of the words we associate with autumn can feel sombre and muted – ‘fall’, ‘decay’, ‘mists’  – and tones are ‘muted’.

But today, as we start work on our autumn programme and gear ourselves up for our latest mindfulness courses, we wanted to use images of autumn as a focus and see this time of year as an opportunity to celebrate and treasure what has been and then let it go. There are ‘autumn words’ that are lively and full of joy – the ‘boisterous’ winds, ‘warmth’ of first fires and ‘blaze’ of autumn oranges – and as the poet John Keats said in his ode to the season – ‘Where are the songs of Spring? Aye, where are they? /Think not of them, thou hast thy music too…..

But letting go can be difficult, and takes practice. You have to learn to take responsibility, forgive and cease blaming others. And you have to live in the present moment, rather than filling your brain with concerns about the past.

We often like to choose a poem for mndfulness on ‘let’s talk!’ and today we have found a wonderful ‘Autumn Sonnet’ by May Sarton, a prolific American writer who died in 1995. She was known for her honest, open approach to her writing and her thoughtful expressions of what it means to be human.

If I can let you go as trees let go
Their leaves, so casually, one by one;
If I can come to know what they do know,
That fall is the release, the consummation,
Then fear of time and the uncertain fruit
Would not distemper the great lucid skies
This strangest autumn, mellow and acute.
If I can take the dark with open eyes
And call it seasonal, not harsh or strange
(For love itself may need a time of sleep),
And, treelike, stand unmoved before the change,
Lose what I lose to keep what I can keep,
The strong root still alive under the snow,
Love will endure – if I can let you go.

May Sarton

‘If I can let you go as trees let go….’ what a marvellous analogy, with the recognition that autumn can be a time of recharge and the storing up of energy for new bursts of energy in the future.

Do you like autumn, or find it a time of year that prompts feelings of sorrow and loss? We would love to  know what you think.

Mindfulness courses taken by our specialist, Miranda Bevis begin on 1st October 2015. See The Terrace website for full details. 

The Mindfulness challenge – how can we just ‘Allow’ ? It is no quick fix…..

TaraHealy-490x350On May the 5th and 6th (can you believe it is already nearly May?!) our mindfulness specialist Miranda Bevis is starting her latest Mindfulness course, lasting eight weeks and offering in-depth knowledge of its benefits and hours of practice. Courses like this have literally changed the lives of many who are facing challenges of all kinds – work, relationships, health – but it does require some hard work to master mindfulness properly. Too often recently the press has highlighted it as the next ‘cure all’ for anxiety and depression, detailing how corporations are recognising it as a means of increasing productivity and reducing stress on employees. But mindfulness isn’t all about a 20 minute break taking deep breaths in the staff canteen. It can open up a whole world of new experiences and, if taught properly, offers meaningful and deep-rooted strategies to deal with the challenges life throws at us. But it isn’t always easy, and can throw up challenges that can be hard to meet in the first days of practice.

So when we saw this poem by Danna Faulds, it seemed to sum up the realities of mindfulness and the joys of simply ‘bearing the truth’…..

Allow

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes
By: Danna Faulds

“When loss rips off the doors of/the heart, or sadness veils your/vision with despair…” – this is mindfulness as support in times of the greatest sorrow, and long before the recent rise in the popularity of the practice many had found peace in the joy of the only moment we truly have – the present one.

Of course we would love you to book on to Miranda Bevis’s courses, if not those starting next week then her autumn dates in September and October, but this isn’t about advertising.  We know the benefits of mindfulness go far deeper than the ‘quick fix’ options being discussed in the press. It isn’t ‘meditation lite’ as it was recently described, and the whole industry that has recently built up around it – phone apps, books etc – can result in a waste of time and money if the practice is not put in. Everything truly worthwhile requires work and patience. Finding a teacher who can guide you and support you is vital, especailly as Danna Faulds says, you  are letting in the fear, the failure and the fantasies….

On the attraction of the inspirational quote…..

Here at The TIt is the chiefest point of happiness,errace we have recently been experimenting with creating images alongside some of our favourite quotations. This is not only an interesting creative experience, but apparently, when trying to get noticed on social media, an image grabs the attention more effectively than a simple text update. In our fast paced world it is all about the visuals; a shame perhaps but looking at a peaceful, meditative image can be a calming start to a morning so we thought it was worth a try, especially as we have recently taken the plunge into Pinterest, where the image is everything.

Inspirational quotes abound on social media. Some are sickly sweet, some inappropriate or distinctly lacking in artistic impact. Others are genuinely eyecatching, heartstopping and with the ability to stay with you all day. But you can be overloaded with them if you are not careful.

Anyway, we thought our regular blog readers might like to see some of our most recent creations, and we would love to know what you think. Do you find inspirational quotes on social media a positive way to stop for a moment and meditate on the message? Do they help you to be mindful? To be still for a moment? Or are they simply fillers on your news feed? Do get in touch!

And the darkness shall be the lightOne should take good care All men's miseries derive from not being Remember, when life's path is steep, to There is enormous happiness to be found Though my soul may set in darkness, it When you sit, let it be.When you walk,

‘Boys don’t cry’ – Will the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation help men open up?

Clarke Carlisle

Clarke Carlisle

The Guardian newspaper reported today that former star of the Premier League, Clarke Carlisle, has said he felt “no shame” about his suicide attempt in December 2014, when he was ‘incredibly unwell’. The former Burnley and Leeds United  footballer  stepped in front of a 12-ton lorry on the A64 near York and was seriously injured.

Isn’t it strange, how a high-profile male sports personality needs to say that he does not feel ashamed of his attempt to take his own life? Why should it be shameful? Carlisle was at The Oval cricket ground, alongside Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, to help launch a new programme to tackle the stigma of mental health issues in sport.  The Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation has already received endorsement from The Football Association, the Rugby Football Union, the Lawn Tennis Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Carlisle is becoming a very high-profile advocate of the need for sports stars – particularly male stars in a variety of sports – to open up about the stresses of life at the top and the need for support at times of crisis. Many find it particularly difficult at retirement from sport, especially if their career has been cut short by injury.

““People are very delicate stepping around it – there’s no shame invested in it for me….I stand here today with a very different perspective of what it means to be alive in this world. There’s a great expectation that once you come out of a psychiatric hospital you’re cured. You’re not cured – you just have more tools, a greater awareness of self and a greater understanding of how to manage your illness and that’s exactly where I’m at. ….I’m managing my illness on a daily basis and I can tell you today I’m very well.”

The Guardian gives figures from the Professional Players Federation which offers counselling to footballers. It has seen a significant increase in need over the past three years, supporting 143 current and former sports stars last year.

Will this charter make any difference though? Will young people, particularly young men, feel better able to express their mental health needs when sports personalities are open about their struggles? Certainly, taking part in sport can have a positive impact on physical and mental health but the huge financial rewards and pressure involved in remaining at the top of any game can make anyone vulnerable. Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff, known for his love of a party and apparently bullish attitude to life surprised many when he came out as suffering with depression, and the number of cricketers experiencing mental health issues has doubled in the past couple of years.

BCMJ_53Vol10_suicide_depressed_manSuicide in men has been described by the British Medical Journal as a “silent epidemic”; the lack of public awareness and the high incidence amongst men requiring urgent action. It is not only theworld of sport that stigmatises mental health issues, but it surely has a significant role to play in the challenges men face. We will watch to see whether the Charter is more than a piece of paper and a media opportunity for politicians who have neglected mental health service provision over the past five years and are only now recognising how deep-rooted the issues are.

More mindfulness practice: Jumping in puddles – cultivating a ‘beginner’s mind’

imagesMany of you will have read our mindfulness posts in the past, perhaps learning some tips to try, or some poetry to focus on as you work to stay in the present moment. It isn’t always easy to make the necessary space and time in our busy lives, but the medical profession has at last recognised that for many, the ever-increasing pace of 21st century life is impossible to maintain.

Our own Miranda Bevis, an expert mindfulness practitioner, runs regular workshops and courses to support anyone wanting to learn mindfulness techniques. She has also written widely on the subject, and she has shared the following piece with us. I found it deeply moving, remembering watching my own children experience the joy of something simple for the first time, and wanting to enjoy that feeling over and over again. As adults, Miranda points out, we rarely do this and. perhaps, need to get in touch with our inner child just a little more often……

When my kids were little, they were drawn, like magnets, to puddles. Many a walk ground to a halt as a puddle had to be inspected. Stood in. Jumped up and down in. Delighted in. But not just one puddle. Every single one they came across. Oblivious of cold and wind, for them, each puddle was a fresh and new excitement, and needed to be explored and reveled in.

At first I could delight in their happiness, their squeals of joy. But inevitably, my mind would stray and become bored. How many times do we have to do this? We’ve got to get on, let’s find some thing new. I’m afraid there were times when I gritted my teeth in frustration,

Small children are very good at being present. They can easily find magic in the mundane, and become completely absorbed in each moment. As we grow up, we tend to lose this. It’s easy to become bored and cynical. “Seen one, seen them all”. We want to move on and find new distractions. So, as I sit now, looking at my rain washed spring garden, at first sight, I am aware it’s beautiful. Of course it doesn’t change, after one minute, five minutes, ten minutes. But what can change is the way I perceive it. I might only appreciate the beauty for an instant, before I get used to it, and become distracted. Instead of staying with the experience of my senses, thoughts to crowd in. Of things that need doing, of plans for the garden. And masses of non-garden related thoughts. The garden, and it’s beauty “disappear” from my awareness.

What we aim to do in mindfulness, is to cultivate something called a “beginner’s mind”. That means learning to see things as if this was the first time we’d ever noticed them. You can practice it on anything; perhaps try with a flower. As best you can, let go of thoughts about the flower, and keep on coming back, over and over, to the experience of your eyes. Let go of any thoughts about being bored and wanting to move on to something else. Rather, keep on “refreshing the screen”… this flower, and this flower, and this flower, so that, in each instant there is a new and wonderful flower in front of you. Or go and splash in puddles if you must!

Miranda Bevis - 226x316 (1 of 1)Dr Miranda Bevis’s original training was in medicine, and she worked as a GP in Somerset, with a special interest in psychological problems. She gained a diploma in Psychodynamic Counselling, and now works as a senior counsellor and EMDR practitioner at the Somerset Counselling Centre in Taunton. She is also a British Wheel of Yoga teacher.