KATHLEEN NORTH

KATHLEEN NORTH has 68 articles published.

Refresh your morning Routine

in Features

The seasonal shift into spring is symbolic of rebirth and renewal, and for many of us, it is a hugely beneficial time to check in, plant new intentions, and nurture their growth.

If you are unsure where to start, how about tomorrow morning? We all know how much a grounding routine can set the tone for your day.

Put simply, a morning routine is a sequence of actions that are regularly followed to make your life easier, less stressful, and more productive. The morning routines of successful people are followed daily so much so that, eventually, these practices become the new normal and are implemented without being noticed.

WAKE UP EARLIER

While sleeping in is amazing, early mornings are extremely underrated. An intentional early wake-up call can help you feel less stressed and rushed in the morning. Whether it’s 15 minutes or 1 hr before your normal wake-up time, this extra time in the morning can give you space to fill your routine with enjoyable activities.

This can give you time to start a habit from meditation to a hot shower to making breakfast, all of these activities start with having more time to do so.

Pro-tip: Try your hardest not to hit the snooze button on your alarm clock! When you sleep that 5 extra minutes, it may be doing more harm than good — making you feel groggier than before.

SET AN INTENTION

Getting in the right mindset first thing in the morning can guide your entire day. This can be as simple as making small goals for yourself. For example, attempting to get outside today or cherish the small moments of your day more than usual. Setting these thoughts and intentions is more powerful than you may think.

DO SOMETHING YOU LOVE

Journaling, reading, exercising — even though we love some activities or hobbies they can easily fall to the bottom of our priority list. With a busy daily schedule, it can feel the days fly by. After a day full of work or other activities, our energy level can be too low to do anything else but lay on the couch. Time management can be hard so it often feels there are not enough hours in the day. 

Getting up and starting your day with something you love can help reel your hobby back to the top of your priority list. 

EAT BREAKFAST

Many of us are in the habit of running out the door with little to no food in our bodies. As much as many love a can of energy drink to kick off the day, it cannot sustain us. As cliche as it sounds breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Any healthy morning routine must include breakfast. 

Listen to your body. If you are hungry whip up the classic scrambled egg and toast, perhaps with avocado or smoked salmon. If you usually skip breakfast, try to eat something light like a smoothie, green juice, or yogurt. You do not want to run on an empty stomach.

GET MOVING

Exercise is the perfect way to release some steam, plus it releases endorphins too – it is a win-win situation. Customise your workout to something you actually enjoy doing and what you have time for. Whether it’s a bike ride, a yoga class, or a 20-minute walk around the neighbourhood, starting off the day healthier will carry over to the rest of your day. 

TAKE TIME TO REFLECT AND EVALUATE

Life is full of change, and we thrive on those changes. Change can be scary, but without change, we are not able to grow and push ourselves out of our personal bubbles. So take some time to reflect on your current life, on your routine. How is it helping to improve your life? If it isn’t, what about it is hindering your life?

Evaluating your routines can help you find what is working and what isn’t. Discovering where the areas of complacency are in your daily routine allows you to fix them to help make important changes. Sometimes our routines become stale because they are no longer pushing us in the direction we want to go. They are holding us back, which is dampening our creativity, preventing our new inspirations to flourish.

Make sure to take time to evaluate your current daily routine, your current goals, and whether these routines are adding to the output in your life. Or if they are hindering you from accomplishing what you want to.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Don’t stress about the small things. Let yourself take breaks when you need to and don’t worry about always being ‘on’. Many people want to work until they physically cannot work anymore. It is inbuilt. It is perfectly fine to step away from the computer, turn off social media, and just be. We cannot successfully work if you don’t take the time to replenish ourselves, take stock and rest.

Our daily routines are always fluctuating, as they should. You are a multifaceted human being, constantly changing and viewing the world in a new perspective every day. Do not worry about time or running out of it. As long as you are happy and feeling fulfilled, it’s always time well spent. Sometimes, you just have to remind yourself that just being you in your stillness is fine.

A positive way to do this is through daily affirmations. Make a list of things you love about yourself everyday. It is not narcissistic, simply an appreciation of who we are and what we can contribute to others, the world around us and importantly, ourselves.

However you achieve it, sometimes the smallest tweaks in our morning routine can reward us with positive daily outcomes.

Aim for Average

in Features

Aiming for the top, being the best, striving for perfection. Wanting to achieve at the highest level is surely a goal we should all aim for?  Well, not necessarily.

It is, of course, positive to want to achieve at the highest level we can but the problems may begin when we give ourselves unrealistic goals.

Always wanting to reach the highest point can make us anxious and unfairly, disappointed with ourselves.

We are surrounded by so many images of perfection and high achieving – no wonder we feel compelled to match their dizzying heights.  When did the word average become a description for less-than or not good enough? If we genuinely feel something is good or positive for us, why is it downgraded to average in other peoples eyes? It is incredibly easy to believe that a middle ground of anything is not desirable – we are often led to think that only the highest level is palatable.

The truth is we are all pretty average at most areas of our lives. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. But the fact is, most of us are pretty average at most things we do. Even if you’re truly exceptional at one thing — say math, or jump rope, or making money off the black gun market — chances are you’re pretty average or below average at most other things. That’s just the nature of life. To become truly great at something, you have to dedicate time and energy to it and because we all have limited time and energy, few of us ever become truly exceptional at more than one thing, if anything at all.

It’s good to be aware that success looks different for everyone. And to be aware of nepotism, classism, ageism, racism and misogyny in the workplace that presents obstacles for some of us. To succeed in our careers we need grit and determination, yup, but also a tremendous amount of luck. 

Cutting ourselves some slack is not lazy, it is being realistic and kind to ourselves. It is about not stressing why you still have not secured that promotion, larger house or romantic success. It is all good, it is absolutely fine. We are all doing our best, within financial means and emotional state of mind. Some self care is definitely what is needed when we are being critical about ourselves and our choices. 

Aiming for middling runs counter to how most of us function in our winner-takes -all society. Who wants to be average? We want above-average results in all areas of our lives: careers, relationships, children, even regarding airplane seats and hotel rooms. We are always jockeying to improve our position relative to others. Despite a few pockets of low self-esteem, we generally think of ourselves as above-average in most areas of life. A simple example is a well-known study showed that most people consider themselves to be above-average drivers, clearly, that is statistically impossible.

There are only a finite number of top spots in every area of work and life – that is a fact. How can we all possibly fit into those at the same time? It is not as if opportunities only lie at the top. In fact, I believe there are plenty more opportunities in the average zone. That is where growth, learning and acceptance exist. Why not take advantage? 

Remember to feel fulfilled and avoid those feelings of being average. it is about more than just liking or being good at something. The secret to a joyous and impactful life is finding something that lies at the intersection of three things: what you are good at, what you enjoy doing, and what the world values.

Finding that will take trial and error, so do not be afraid to try out many different passions. What you end up loving and feeling great at might be very far away from the expectations you have always had for yourself. Experiment intentionally with different things until you find that magic combination of ability, interest, and value.

How to help you aim for average:

• Set your own limits – Remember that you can choose what time, effort and energy you give to everything you do – and sometimes doing less, means that you can give more to things that are more important to you.

• Keep a gratitude diary.  Focus on what you have, not what you lack.  Write down 3 things each day that you are grateful for.   This moves us from a focus on striving to a focus on thriving. 

• Keep an ‘I did it list’.  Appreciate the progress – however small – you have made at the end of each day.  This is a great way of giving you a real feeling of satisfaction.  You did enough – well done!

• Fall in love with stopping.  Like an artist painting a picture, it can be easy to over paint and never stop – always in search of that final touch.  But there’s nothing quite like putting the metaphorical brush down and saying ‘that’s good enough’. Savour the moment when you stop. 

Enjoy being an average without a pang of guilt. You may never know, there is someone who would give anything to be in your shoes. People genuinely will not remember any particular success story of yours for long. However, they will always remember how you made them feel. Start each day afresh and have the confidence to live your life at your own pace.

So divert your eyes from the top, explore different opportunities and find contentment in the middle ground. As challenging as it is not to look at others lifestyles, financial situation – or even likes on social media – it is empowering for us to be ourselves and believe in ourselves. 

Mental health and the Holidays

in Health & Beauty

Some of us can struggle with our mental health and wellbeing during the colder months and in the run up to Christmas and New Year. It is genuinely ok to feel like you are struggling. 

Throughout the winter months there are positive strategies we can adopt to help us enjoy this time of year:

Monitor your News Intake

If you feel negatively impacted by the news, limit your exposure. Some people spend hours in front of the television watching cable news and getting fired up by the political drama. Try limiting your news exposure to 15 minutes, then shifting your attention to something more uplifting, like a TV show or film you enjoy. The same applies to scrolling through social media apps. Limit your time and move on to a more rewarding activity.

Stay connected

Staying connected may seem easy with social media and new technology, but some ways of connecting are better than others. While a simple text can make a difference to someone who is struggling as it lets them know you’re thinking about them, reaching out in other ways can be better. Try to make it a phone or video call rather than email or text, or meet up with that friend you haven’t seen in a while if it’s safe to do so. You’ll share a lot more than you would over social media and talking can be a good way to tackle a problem you’ve been carrying around.

And if you know someone who might be lonely or on their own over Christmas, why not spend some time with them?    

Try to stay active

The shorter days, colder weather and darker nights can put many of us getting outside as much. You also may find that you’re not able to do some of things you used to due to the pandemic. But finding ways to exercise and get outside can help protect your mental wellbeing. Why not take up an online exercise class, or go out on a daily walk during your lunch break?

Take Notice

With so much going on it is important we appreciate what’s happening now, and not dwell on the past or worry about the future. Why not put a mindfulness book on your Christmas list? It can be a great way to de-stress and train our brain to be in the moment.

Learn

Learning can be fun, and also increase our confidence. So take time out to read a book, learn how to use a new gadget or take up a new hobby.

Volunteer

It feels rewarding to give so why not use some of your time off to volunteer for a cause you feel passionate about. It’s been proven that an act of kindness boosts your mood and increases your wellbeing.

Start a Gratitude Journal

Though it only takes five minutes a day, keeping a gratitude journal can significantly elevate your mood and mental outlook. At the end of each day, write down at least one thing that you are grateful for that day. It can be as minor as, “I enjoyed the sandwich I ate for lunch.” What tends to happen is the nature of your thoughts will change. As you go about your day and consider what you are going to write down later, you’ll start paying more attention to the happier moments, shifting your narrative from negative to positive.

Get enough sleep

Most adults should aim for around seven to nine hours of sleep per night. In the winter time, it can be tempting to turn up the heater and pile on the blankets, but research shows sleeping in cooler temperatures is better for you. It can help with insomnia, reduce stress, and decrease depression. Try keeping your thermostat in between 60 and 68 degrees, but make sure you’re still comfy and not cold.

Dawn Baxter, is the founder of Beyond the Dawn Digital and is a marketing expert & certified positive psychology coach.

Dawn states ‘A great hack for missing the sunshine and coping with the winter months can be to use youtube as your fake window friend. Luckily on youtube some wonderful humans have created some videos of scenes that include sunshine and beautiful scenery. This will not fix the feeling but can be comforting on the darker days. 

The darker nights can make us feel as though our days are a lot shorter. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a bird’s eye view of what is necessary and pick only the really important areas to tackle first. Consider your needs in the emotional, mental, and physical states as you do so and make it non-negotiable that you are considering your needs vs what needs to “get done” at the same level of priority. If you are a list maker, so many of us are, add realistic timescales to it and make the lists actually achievable otherwise all you are doing is creating another tool of emotional torture when you inevitably do not complete everything you set out to achieve. Take care of you, truly and the rest gets easier.

Using mind-mapping or journaling is an excellent way to lighten the mental load. This is a technique used to remove thoughts or worries that would otherwise have you ruminating and preventing you from focusing on different elements of your day. This might include important decisions you have to make, stresses from your day; anything that blocks you finding the level of relaxation and focus needed. Similarly a lovely technique to implement at the end of the day is to journal out some gratitudes; to lay out your final thoughts for the day. This acts as a visualisation to take off the weight of everything that has happened that day, as well as everything you might be planning for tomorrow or the rest of the week.’

Dawn Baxter, Founder of Beyond the Dawn Digital, 

Traveling home for Christmas

in Features

Christmas dinner. The mere mention of it conjures up plates of steaming, delicious food, chilled glasses of fizz and merriment from all those sitting around the family table.

Christmas dinner.  The mere mention of it conjures up plates of steaming, delicious food, chilled glasses of fizz and merriment from all those sitting around the family table.

However, is it really so strange to assume that other families may have a tradition of going out for Christmas dinner? Truth is, every family will have their own routine on December 25th and deciding on a way to suit everybody is never an easy task.

Christmas is around the corner and we will soon be heading out with our families and friends for a festive meal.

Restaurants know that December means increased business, but there are also significant downsides to this which on occasions might outweigh the benefits.

Let us consider the pros and cons of eating out v staying at home:

Let us consider the pros and cons of eating out vs staying at home:

The Pros:

No cooking or cleaning up

I can hear a collective cheer from all of you. No washing up, no cleaning, no stress.

This is definitely one of the main pros of dining out at Christmas. It is especially great if you have a large group as there will be far fewer dishes for you to do afterward.

Superior Food

This is especially true if you go to a restaurant that is known for its good food. The chef has had more time to prepare and will know your taste preferences better than you would yourself.

Try new dishes

Restaurants often have special Christmas menus which include festive favourites as well as some more unusual dishes. If you are feeling adventurous, this could be a great way to expand your culinary horizons.

Celebrate with other families

This could be a pro or a con. However, if you are someone that likes to socialise and spend time with others, then this could be a big bonus.

Not only will you get to meet new people, but you also get to share in the Christmas spirit with them.

The Cons:

It can be expensive

Now you don’t need me to tell you that dining out at Christmas time is likely to be an expensive affair, so you need to work out if this is really worth it or not.

Of course, the joy of going to a restaurant is that somebody else does all the cooking and cleaning up afterward. But I think we can agree that you probably don’t want your family and friends to do too much for you at Christmas time, so maybe you should just put in some extra hours in the kitchen yourself.

Restaurant temptations

It’s all too easy to be seduced by the delicious aromas coming from the kitchen when you’re eating out.

If you’re trying to stick to a diet or avoid certain foods, this can be quite difficult.

Less personal attention as you would if you were cooking at home

This is especially true if you go to a large restaurant. The chef and staff will have their hands full and may not be able to give you the level of attention that you would receive if you cooked at home.

You miss out on cooking and eating together

This is one of the main reasons why many people choose to cook their Christmas meal at home. It is more intimate and cozy than eating in a restaurant, and you can avoid temptation if you’re not constantly surrounded by it.

Less control over what you eat

Restaurants often serve large portions, which can be difficult to resist. If you are trying to watch your weight or eat healthily, dining out may not be the best option.

Disturbed by other parties

When you are dining at home, the only people you have to put up with are those who are present in your house.

When you go out to a restaurant there can be a lot of noise and commotion from other tables if the place is full. This can be very distracting.

This could be the major stumbling block to enjoying a Christmas dinner out. It all depends on how well you can hear yourself think as to whether it’s worth the risk or not.

The wait might be too long

Depending on how finely tuned the restaurant is a service, you may have to wait a while for your food. This is especially true if you go to a popular restaurant around Christmas time. You may have to wait for a table, order, receive your food, and then eat it – all within a two-hour window.

If unorganised, you might miss your reserved table

This is another potential pitfall of dining out at Christmas. If you’re not careful, you might find yourself rushing to make your reservation on time.

Of course, several different things can happen at this time of the year so it’s not always possible to plan ahead. If you are  an organised person, this could be a bit of a headache.

Finally, remember that Christmas is a time to relax and enjoy yourself – so don’t worry if things don’t go according to plan. Simply have a laugh and order another drink. 

So there you have it – some pros and cons to help you make your decision on whether or not to dine out at Christmas. Hopefully the above will give you a good starting point.

Overall, both staying in or going out for your Christmas meal have their pros and cons. In reality, it all comes down to what you feel happiest doing. Whereas one person may thrive on cooking for a group of 15, another person may have the fear of being stuck indoors all day with family members. The choice really is yours to take.

Enjoy a delicious Christmas!

Jingle all the way

in Features

It is Christmas music season, that (most wonderful) time of the year when, no matter what the prevailing style in pop music is the other 11 months, we are thrown into a sort of musical time warp where we indulge in listening to music from all eras.

The truth is if the Christmas standards seem a little old-fashioned now, many of them seemed somewhat old-fashioned even at the time. One of the odd things about the Christmas canon is how it insists there’s only one real Christmas: a rural, snow-filled Christmas. 

Christmas song writers are determined to steep us all in that winning combination of snow, nostalgia, twinkling lights and omnipresent good cheer.

Perhaps the most famous Christmas pop song of all is White Christmas, whose introductory verse makes it clear that if you live in a place with no snow, you’re not really experiencing the season at all.

Within the broad genre of Christmas music, there are a few more specific categories: the bangers, like “All I Want For Christmas Is You”; the classics, like “White Christmas”; and the ones that make you sad and happy at the same time, like “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” and “Blue Christmas.” And while there really is nothing like a Christmas jig, those nostalgic, lump-in-your-throat, sentimental songs are often the ones we have on repeat throughout December.

At such a magical time, why are we drawn to stirring, seasonal music that makes us both happy and sad? Turns out, there are a few possible psychological explanations.

Music has a strong tie to nostalgia which is why hearing a song from the ’90s can take someone directly back to elementary school, and why listening to certain Christmas songs can make people feel warm, fuzzy, and return us to childhood. In a 1999 study, researchers examined people’s ability to recall memories after hearing a clip from a song. While they weren’t able to think of an exact event from the time when the song came out, they were able to recall the general emotion that they felt during that time. So, listening to some Christmas tracks might make you feel wistful for your childhood or just generally festive and happy, rather than remorseful about that Christmas when you broke up from your partner – your brain has already created positive associations with the music.

There is no doubt that nostalgia is an intriguing sensation because it can make you feel happy and sad at the same time. Interestingly, other studies have shown that listening to melancholic music can evoke feelings of comfort. This could explain why some people decide to listen to more emotionally raw songs they need a pick-me-up or to feel comforted. With Christmas music, in particular, the sad nostalgic emotions that you feel when listening to certain songs could, in theory, have the same positive effect as sad music.

Christmas music is also often structured in a way that makes it innately pleasing. When you hear a song for the first time, its melody gets tracked in your brain’s prefrontal cortex. Your brain is then always searching for that melody, or a similar one, and when you hear it again it feels very satisfying and soothing.

Compared to other genres of music, Christmas music and pop tend to have very predictable melodic structures. Hearing something you are musically familiar with automatically provides you with strong expectations. You are making predictions, having this moment of tension and then realising the prediction was correct. When you combine this aspect with nostalgia, it is obvious why Christmas music makes you feel such a diverse range of emotions.

Of course Christmas carols hold a particularly special place in many peoples hearts. We sing Christmas carols because they are a way of telling the story of the nativity and the birth of Jesus Christ. As well as explaining what happened around Jesus’s birth, the songs enable us to encapsulate and express the joy, devotion and awe-inspiring scenes of the nativity.

Apart from telling the nativity story, Christmas carols spread joy and warmth during the bleakest months. In Christmas, the Christian faith brought together traditional winter feasts and celebrations. They were designed to spread light in the dark, deep midwinter months, and the celebrations of Jesus’s birth. Christmas carols have an appropriately uplifting and celebratory style to honour such a memorable occasion.

Little wonder they have endured as a popular way to highlight and celebrate the arrival of the Christmas season. 

Christmas carols, almost always have wonderfully memorable melodies and captivating harmonies. Performed by choirs of voices, often with an organ or instrumentalists accompanying them, the songs create a wonderful atmosphere and resound with positivity.

So, is Christmas music good, or do radio presenters deserve coal in their stockings? It is a truly individual answer. For the eternal romantics and fans of nostalgia the so-called songs of the season are joyous audible additions to our Christmas preparations whereas the Ebenezer’s of the world sneak earplugs under their earmuffs. 

Like most things, it’s all a matter of perspective. It is important to remember that no matter how you feel about the holiday classics, the world is a fragile place these days and so are we. If a particular song or carol provides us with a warm glow, simply enjoy it.

The ultimate joy about Christmas music is we can all enjoy our diverse tastes and personal melodic preferences, as well as everything else Christmas related. Like all aspects of the season, it is our varying tastes that make it such a unique experience.

So, for Christmas songs fans – that is all of us, surely – remember that Christmas music: 

  • Improves Mood – Christmas music lets us relive the best moments from holidays past – anytime we want.
  • Relieves Stress – Christmas music takes us on a vacation from our troubles and helps lower stress.
  • Increases Relaxation – Christmas music
    literally soothes our brains.

Traveling home for Christmas

in Features

Travelling back home at any point in the year feels comforting, stabilising and full of loving expectations but our journeys back at Christmas time are extra special.

However near or far your journey is, there is no doubt that we all travel with a warm heart and sense of returning where we emotionally belong.  Perhaps parents wine there to welcome us, family members or friends that have become our family. As we know, families and a sense of security comes in all shapes and sizes, ages and locations.

The weather might be seasonably mild or crisp underfoot – no matter. Whether we are huddled up in coats and hats or simply need an over jacket, inside, we feel warm and fuzzy.

All of us have a Christmas journey to share. It might be a joyous occasion or a situation where it was touch and go that you made it to your Christmas festivities in time.

Bernie Flynn from Bedfordshire had not returned home at Christmas for several years. Family upsets had made travelling home a challenge she could not face. Bernie continues, ‘years ago I met someone who I adored. I was head over heels about him. That Christmas, I wanted him to meet my family in Ireland. My parents and siblings were so excited, as was I. It became clear after a couple of days that my family were not too keen on him. It was really disappointing as I had naturally wanted them to love him as much as I did. After we left and I returned to England, the relationship with my parents became strained. They were honest with me and said they thought my partner was rather controlling. It was devastating.

Fast forward five years and of course, my family were right. My relationship broke down due to my partner’s behaviour. I felt foolish, alone and realised I had sacrificed the special bond I had with my family.

Last November, my mum called me and simply said ‘please come home, we all want to see you.’

The rush of relief and love was indescribable. I literally couldn’t wait to see them. Although my journey was relatively short, it felt like forever. To be honest, the emotional gap that had developed between us is what seemed vast, not the physical miles. When I arrived at my parents, it was magical. The normality of it, the familiar smells the same tatty decorations that they used every year. It was perfect and I knew immediately that the journey home that Christmas was the most important journey I will ever experience.’

Like Bernie, many of our most significant and poignant journeys back home at Christmas come from an emotional, possibly difficult relationship situation. As challenging as these reunions can be, there is also an extra special feeling that accompanies such meetings.  It is often the expectation that keeps us going no matter how tricky or delayed our journey is. 

When travelling by train or coach, a positive tactic is to make sure you are wrapped and have sufficient provisions. Even a simple sandwich and coffee can make any journey more bearable.

Food and drink certainly featured in a train journey experienced by Lisa Hamilton. Lisa was making the rather lengthy return home from London to Cornwall. It was a winter when the weather was unkind to the train tracks and the travellers.

‘As soon as I arrived at London Paddington, I sensed there were delays. Even for the Christmas season it seemed particularly chaotic. I just groaned and thought I am never going to get there!

Eventually, we were able to board a train to Penzance – it was quite a tussle. Although I had booked a seat it had bevy’s bit of a free for all. Luckily, I was sitting with three others around the table and it soon became clear that my journey was going to be anything but dull. The two chaps sitting in the aisle took their lack of seats with good grace and even shared their considerable supply of fizz. My fellow travellers and I emptied our food supplies on the shared table and it worked out rather well with a mixture of sweet and savoury items to tuck into. Obviously we were fed up with being delayed and having to contact various family and friends to pick us up at different times but the whole experience felt like a real show of Christmas togetherness. I still keep in contact with a couple of my Christmas train pals. It made such a difference to share the experience with others who wanted to celebrate going home rather than become miserable because of the delays.’

Creating a positive travel experience like Lisa is a wonderful way of battling a potentially stressful journey and turning it into a fun filled occasion. Of course, it depends on your fellow travellers but at a time like Christmas, we all want to achieve the same goal – meeting up with our loved ones. Hopefully, that gives us the positivity and determination to make the best of a difficult situation.

Travelling at Christmas is so full of expectation and excitement. Realistically, we frequently encounter delays and travel related problems but unlike other times of the year, the prospect of meeting up with loved ones gives us the strength to continue and possibly even enjoy our journey.

So, like any journey, be well prepared. Everything feels more bearable with a cheeky snack and drink in our bags and during the festive season definitely do not forget to bring the Christmas presents too!

Loneliness

in Features

When people feel lonely and depressed, they will typically have low self-esteem too.

If you find that you constantly berate yourself for feeling down, think about what you would say to a friend going through something like this. Consider how you might be able to help them feel better. Rather than being self-critical, remember that you deserve compassion too, so treat yourself kindly in any moment when you are not feeling so good.

Loneliness is not an abstract condition that affects only certain kinds of people. The truth is that feelings of loneliness can affect anyone—young, old, and in-between—and at any point in life.

It’s not uncommon for the elderly, people going through a breakup, divorce, or death of a loved one, and young people to struggle with loneliness. Generation Z adults (ages 18-22), in fact, are feeling lonelier than almost any other population.

Loneliness can be due to so many different factors, and can affect both your emotional and physical health long-term. 

The online world can be a double-edged sword, especially when it comes to loneliness and social isolation. Log on or log off—which is healthier? It all depends.

  • The online world offers non-threatening and convenient ways to connect with others that can help if you’re trying to overcome loneliness. Things like multi-player gaming, chat and message sites, even online dating sites can offer ways to interact and engage with others that’s satisfying for some people. There are also online apps designed to help you deal with issues like loneliness and social isolation.
  • What about social media? Is it good for you when you’re dealing with loneliness? For some people, the online world may contribute to even greater feelings of loneliness and isolation. Social media, for example, can portray people who seem to be living exciting, happy-go-lucky lives with hundreds of good friends at their side. Reality is that this is generally not reality. Social media can make some people feel inadequate, left out, and feeling lonely. Bottom line, if being online seems more isolating than connected, it may be a sign you need to log off.

Volunteering is an opportunity to feel less lonely. Volunteer opportunities are usually plentiful. Contributing your time and energy, working alongside others for a good cause, can effectively help you in fighting loneliness. Volunteer activities are shown to ease stress, reduce feelings of depression, can help you make friends, and connect with others, and overall make you a happier person.

A sense of happiness, fulfillment, and connection to others is yet another way to stop feeling lonely.

Psychotherapist Elizabeth Ritchie believes that ‘sadly, loneliness is recognised as one of the most significant mental, physical and social problems in society today, not surprisingly exacerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic. It is prevalent among older people but many young people are also affected. Many of us who are lonely feel trapped in a state of social isolation and disconnect which can be intertwined with depression and other mental health illnesses.

The key to tackle these issues is in one word Communication! Avoiding speaking about loneliness can impact on self-esteem and can negatively affect interpersonal relationships

Health professionals have resources to support and can provide non-clinical services like community groups, activities, or emotional support networks and “Social prescribing schemes” are now being developed as a result of these challenging societal issues.

Some tips to combat loneliness

Spend time outdoors if possible to be closer to nature and fresh air

We are often happiest when we are mentally engaged so find ways to keep your mind active or at least distracted, i.e. games, puzzles, crosswords

Reduce your time on social media, however for older adults, this can be a benefit as it can facilitate crucial connections.

Keep in touch with your friends, some of them may feel the same way.

Be mindful of your self-care. Create a positive “to do “list. Include things that you enjoy doing, people that you enjoy talking to, programmes/films that you like watching. You can be your best cheerleader to navigate the challenging feelings and emotions associated with loneliness.’

Rest Less’s Lifestyle Editor Elise Christian states that ‘Loneliness is something many of us encounter at various stages of our lives but persistent loneliness (feeling lonely more than once a week) can have an adverse impact on our mental and physical health.  Research has shown that people who experience persistent loneliness are more likely to suffer from health conditions such as dementia, heart disease and depression for example.

There are some measures we can take to tackle loneliness.  The first step is to acknowledge it.  Sometimes we can busy ourselves so much that we can’t find the time to stop and reflect on how we’re really feeling.

Secondly, if you have lots of people around you but you still feel lonely, it might be because the relationships don’t run deep enough.  Try to foster high quality and meaningful relationships which are founded on shared interests or experiences.

Thirdly, focus on the positives of being alone.  Sometimes we have no alternative and it’s really important to be comfortable in our own company as we will all have times in our lives when we are by ourselves.

Finally, they say comparison is the thief of joy.  Sometimes loneliness can creep up on us when we spend too much time comparing ourselves to others.  Social media has made this even more common.  When reflecting on your own goals and achievements, the only person you should ever compare yourself to is you!  It’s hard to find true contentment if you’re comparing yourself to someone else’s so it’s a great habit to try and break.’

For more information:  

Liz Ritchie: Lizritchie.org 

Rest Less: www.restless.co.uk/press

Age UK is becoming a leading expert in loneliness reduction services, like the creation of the loneliness app.

Ageuk.org.uk

Dealing with Seasonal Changes

in Features

Certain seasons seem to bring more natural joy than other times of the year. Spring and Summer top many people’s lists as they are “filled with the joys of Spring” or basking in the warmth of the Summer sun. 

One of the reasons we often find happiness in particular seasons is that we expect it to be there, so we look for it – and we find it there. In contrast, if we expect a season to be miserable and dank, that’s likely to be how we experience it. Consider the thoughts, feelings and emotions you associate with each season. If you are a Summer person, you might think about having fun in the sun, enjoying the long days and warm weather. 

As Summer blends into Autumn and the nights draw in, it might be that your thoughts darken too, and your joy starts to nosedive. The best way to combat this predisposition to misery is to reset your expectations. Actively choose to find joy during each season. Identify one or two things you can celebrate in each season. It might be appreciating the colourful Autumn leaves, the glisten of frost on the grass or something completely different. Anticipate and seek out positive seasonal experiences. They bring moments of joy that transform your mood.

There are three key points that will help you navigate and manage any seasonal changes.

Exercise

Moving your body on a regular basis has far-reaching, positive effects on your physical and emotional health. You don’t need to train for a marathon. Walking around your neighborhood, doing push-ups, running around outside with children—these all have the same benefit.

Get more light

Everyone needs to be exposed to sunlight on a daily basis. Since many jobs can be done indoors, this often takes effort. But the benefits are great, physically and emotionally. Our bodies absorb vitamin D, important to our health, from sunlight. The energy and emotional boost that we get from a few minutes in the sun can be exceptional.

Talk it out

All transitions have their challenges, and it’s always easier when you’re talking to someone about it. Whether you are talking to a friend, colleague or therapist, let someone into your inner thoughts and experiences.

Person-Centred Psychotherapist, Helen Burke-Smith BA, PGDip, MSc. believes ‘the effects of seasonal changes on our mental health can be profound. As summer ends and the shift into autumn and then winter occurs, big changes in temperature, light exposure, lengths of daylight and intensity of light can impact our mental health. With the weather closing in and the temperature dropping, in conjunction with waking up to lower light in the mornings, we can find ourselves feeling more lethargic, depleted and less motivated to move or exercise. But is this always the case? Seasonal Affective Disorder is well documented, but the benefits of seasonal change are less well known or discussed. So let’s explore the positive impact of seasonal change on our emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.

Autumn stimulates the brain to start taking on new challenges because the bright visual contrasts we see in nature, bright reds, oranges, yellows, and evergreen leaves trigger the brain to respond to change. As our brains acknowledge the change of season, it stimulates a push for change within. We can use this push to implement new healthy coping strategies, such as journaling, walking, exercising more, or making healthier food choices, all of which can help us in the colder and darker months. As the temperatures cool, we can find it easier to exercise outside, we can take advantage of the cooler mornings by trying a run in the park through the newly fallen leaves or getting out on a scenic bike ride. Try counting how many different colours you see as you are outside in nature, paying attention to things around us and naming what you see can help ground us and reduce anxiety. Autumn can stimulate newfound gratitude for the world around us. 

Furthermore, the bright colours of autumn have also been shown to alleviate stress and anxiety. Nature’s wide array of colours stimulates the brain and triggers positive emotions. Furthermore, research shows that Autumn stimulates nostalgia by reconnecting us to memories of our childhood. Think autumn leaves falling, kicking, or diving into the leaves, foraging for conkers or biking through the trees. If you stop to reflect on happy memories, it can work to train your mind to associate autumn with a joyful time of year. 

A surprising fact about our mind is that, according to research, several brain regions (subcortical structures associated with learning, motivation, decision making and emotional processing) become larger during autumn, suggesting our memory may become sharper during autumnal months. 

But not all benefits and positive impacts of seasonal change are linked to autumn, winter too can have a profound and beneficial impact on our mental health. Winter triggers us to want to slow down. Although humans cannot hibernate, we are drawn to do something similar. We are drawn to stay more local and inside and out of the cold. We are more tempted to cancel plans, skip workouts and eat more comforting food. Is this inherently bad for us? No. We can take the winter months to reoperate, enjoy the pleasure of more solitude, contemplate more, and spend time with loved ones cosy under blankets or in front of the fire. Winter is a time for rest and digest, and restoring depleted energy levels. Furthermore, winter too comes with a trigger for nostalgia, watching old movies from our childhood, playing board games, and getting the time to read our favourite novels. 

Research suggests that, unlike summer, we are less likely to experience guilt for not getting out and about, there is more patience in winter and more time.’

Helen Burke-Smith

www.thepathwayclinic.co.uk

helen@thepathwayclinic.co.uk

Shop Early for Christmas

in Features

So that fabulous season of Christmas is on our horizon. Only a quarter of us have finished all of our Christmas shopping by the start of December. More than a third say they leave Christmas shopping to the last minute. If you are part of the 33%, and wait until the last minute to start your Christmas shopping, you are also aware of all the craziness and rush you may face, not to mention having to navigate a significant number of people who are all doing exactly the same.

With that in mind, why not de-stress the situation and start early instead?

Another significant factor is the worsening cost-of-living crisis, increasing prices for petrol, energy, and other household bills. They have all had major impacts on the country’s economy. In fact, people have been warned that they face a very challenging winter ahead, with some facing a choice between food and heating when the cold weather sets in.

Here are good reasons to start your holiday shopping early this year:

Avoid Shipping Delays

During the best of times, postal services and shipping companies are always overwhelmed around the festive season. This is the one time of year that people send gifts to friends and family all over the globe. Unfortunately, added to the overwhelming number of gifts that are getting shipped, there are all those shipments to be expected any time of the year. Remember that there are still issues with the supply chain, so deliveries are slower than normal. 

Avoid the Christmas Shopping Rush

Starting your shopping early will help you avoid the holiday rush. Stores will be less crowded, and you won’t have to worry about fighting for parking or waiting in line. You’ll also be able to take your time and look for the perfect gifts without feeling rushed.

Also, starting early also gives you more time to shop around. If you start late, you may not have time to look at all your options. This can lead to overspending or buying gifts that your loved ones don’t want. By starting early, you can avoid these problems and make sure you get the best gifts possible.

Get Better Deals

Another benefit of starting your Christmas shopping early is that you’re more likely to get better deals. Many retailers offer sales and discounts on items that have been sitting on the shelves for a while in the weeks leading up to Christmas, so you can take advantage of these if you shop early.

In addition, some items may sell out closer to Christmas, so it’s best to buy them early. This is especially true for popular items like toys and electronics. By starting your shopping early, you can make sure you get the items you want before they’re all gone.

Avoid the Crowds

Crowds can be a big turnoff during the Christmas season. Not only do you have to deal with other people getting in your way, but it can make it difficult for you to find what it is you want to buy.

By starting your shopping early, you can avoid the crowds and enjoy a more peaceful, enjoyable and productive shopping experience.

What’s more, when you start early, you can avoid the stress of last-minute shopping and enjoy all the other activities that come with the holidays. From baking cookies to watching holiday movies, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the season without having to worry.

More Time to Enjoy the Holidays

Starting your Christmas shopping early can also help you avoid the Christmas shopping blues. This is the feeling you get when you’re overwhelmed by all the shopping you have to do. It can be stressful and make the holidays seem less enjoyable.

If you have all of your Christmas shopping done early, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy time with your family and friends. In addition, you’ll be able to take advantage of all the holiday activities. You can go to Christmas parties, bake cookies, or watch holiday movies. If you wait until the last minute to shop, you may miss out on these.

Complete it quickly

Let’s face it. Christmas shopping can be a chore. This is especially true if you have to buy a bunch of gifts for so many people, and this problem can get worse if you do everything at the last minute! Not only must you hope that the things you want to buy are still in stock, but you’ll also have to rush everything to get packaged properly to look great.

By getting it out of the way early, you can avoid the stress and enjoy the rest of the holiday season. This ensures you can give gifts without looking like you’ve just been to a battle zone for it.

Time to Visit The Early Christmas Fair

Christmas fairs are a great way to get into the Christmas spirit. They are a fun way to buy gifts for your loved ones, and you can find some great deals there as well. And when you start your Christmas shopping early, you have time to visit fabulous fairs.

You can find everything from handmade jewellery to ornaments at these fairs. In addition, you can often find deals on items like clothing and toys.

By starting early, you avoid shopping anxiety and ensure your holiday experience is a smooth and enjoyable one – not one tainted with stress and worry as you fight your way through the crowd looking for gifts for loved ones.

So if you want to enjoy all the fun and excitement of the festive season, start your Christmas shopping early and have a fabulous season.

Curbing our appetite

in Features

Do you experience mid-morning munchies? In frequent need of a late afternoon sugar hit? Suddenly feeling ravenous at certain times of the day is a common experience, however, a fluctuating appetite can make it difficult to manage our weight, as well as causing low mood and grumpiness.

Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University have discovered that feeling ‘hangry’, a portmanteau of hungry and angry actually exists.  Being hungry was associated with greater levels of anger and irritability, as well as lower levels of pleasure.

These two areas can help regulate your appetite:

Healthy Fats

Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically those in algae oils and fish may increase the levels of leptin, a fullness hormone, in obese people. Consume other healthy fats from natural sources like avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds to control your hunger. Note that diets that are very low in fat may increase your hunger, instead of reducing it, so consider following low-fat diets in moderation.

High-Fiber Foods

Unlike other foodstuffs, fiber does not break down to be digested, it therefore stays in the body for a longer period and slows down digestion, making you feel satisfied all day long. Fiber-rich foods stretch the stomach, slowing its emptying rate and triggers the release of fullness hormones. More viscous, soluble fiber found in food such as oatbran, barley and legumes may be more effective in reducing appetite compared to the less viscous ones, while fermentable fiber in the bowel produces short-chain fatty acids which may help promote feelings of fullness and nourish the colon wall. High-fiber diets are linked to lower obesity rates. Foods high in protein and fibre are effective at generating satiety, because of their breakdown and release of nutrients.

Learning to control hunger is probably the biggest hurdle when you are on a weight loss plan. It’s a complaint people make more often than any other. Some people gripe about counting calories or keeping a food diary; others grumble about making time to exercise. A regular statement is that individuals feel hungry all the time.

There are plenty of tricks that can help you control hunger naturally. The first step is to figure out if you are really and truly hungry in the first place.

How to Recognise if you are Genuinely Hungry

Feeling hungry is not the same thing as “wanting something to eat.” There are a few telltale signs that can help you distinguish stress-related or emotional hunger from true, physical hunger.

First, ask yourself these questions:

• Does your stomach rumble?

• Is your energy level dipping?

• Do you have a little bit of “brain fog” or feel “cranky”?

If any of those things happen to you, you probably do need some fuel. These are all common symptoms of true hunger. When you feel this way, your body is likely to respond when you eat something—and you will probably feel better.

If you’re eating for reasons other than hunger—if you’re just bored, anxious or depressed—food probably won’t make you any less bored, anxious or depressed. If it does, you probably won’t feel that way for long.

If it’s emotion or stress that’s driving you, or if you got the urge to eat something simply because it looked good or smelled good, you’re probably not truly hungry. In that case, you will need to find other ways to deal with the urge to eat.

Positive ways to Control Your Hunger

Hunger control is aimed at curbing true hunger: the growling stomach, the low energy or the irritability that often comes when your body needs fuel. Since true hunger naturally drives you to eat, you’ll want to learn some healthy, hunger-stopping strategies if your goal is to lose weight through calorie restriction.

So, here are 5 tips to control hunger and curb your appetite.

1. Eat protein as a hunger curber

Protein satisfies hunger better than carbohydrates or fat. Try to include some lean protein at each meal and snack. Protein works its magic not only in your digestive tract, but it also affects your brain chemistry in a way that helps you feel satisfied and mentally sharp.
2. Fill yourself up with watery, high-fiber foods.

Water and fiber have no calories. Watery, high-fiber foods are “bulky” and take up more space in your stomach, so they help to fill you up. Most vegetables (except the starchy ones like potatoes, corn, and peas) have very few calories per serving because they contain so much water and fiber. Watery fruits like melons and pineapple, and high fiber fruits like berries, can also help fill you up for a relatively low-calorie cost.

3. Exercise can help control hunger.

A bout of exercise can suppress hunger hormones, which can curb your appetite. In order to sustain your activity, your body needs to be properly fuelled. Sometimes, in an effort to lose weight, people cut their calories too much and just don’t have the energy to keep up with their exercise. Therefore, the whole process backfires. People often state they feel as if exercise makes them hungry and leads them to eat more. This is more likely because they haven’t eaten properly before and after their workouts.

4. Drink fluids to help you feel less hungry.

Drinking fluids with your meals may make your meals feel more filling. Some people confuse thirst with hunger, so even though their bodies are craving fluid, they end up eating instead. If you stay hydrated, this is less likely to occur.

5. Eating small, regular meals can help curb your appetite.

When you eat small meals every few hours, it helps keep your blood sugar levels more stable throughout the day. This is essential since dips in your blood sugar can cause your hunger to spike. Even if you believe a smaller amount of food won’t satisfy you, the knowledge that you’ll be eating again in just a few hours often makes your hunger more manageable. 

1 2 3 7
0 £0.00
Go to Top