How to be Happy

So as promised in my last post ‘Time to Change‘  this post is on improving your well being, or as I optimistically named this post ‘How to be Happy’, whether or not you suffer from mental illness. Now obviously not all these things will make everybody happy, however these are things which are mostly proven to improve well being and create a sense of happiness; so if increasing a sense of well being is something you are interested in, read on dear friend!

  • Have goals
    Having clear goals has been shown to improve happiness and well being because it gives you something to work towards. Whether the goal is to achieve a certain grade in school, or simply to get out of bed and buy milk from the shops, having a clear and realistic goal is important. I personally don’t actually follow this action because if I fail in my goals it just increases my sense of uselessness, however if you are better at actually setting yourself realistic goals than me  (realistic here is key!), you may find this useful, but like I said, not every action is for everyone.
  • Do things
    This is a very broad one, I know! I learned in CBT that if you do things (literally anything) then this will increase your sense of competence in that area, which should generalize to other areas of your life and increase your confidence. So if you go out and buy milk from the shops one day, you realise you can do it, and this might increase your confidence to later do something a bit scarier, like going to a seminar. Obviously again you need to be realistic with yourself and what you would be comfortable doing.
  • Do things you used to enjoy/think you might enjoy
    So if you don’t suffer from a mental illness the previous ‘do things’ point probably confused you a little, and this point is probably more suited to everyone. If you stopped doing things you enjoyed, whether for mental health reasons like depression, or just because maybe circumstances changed (a new job taking up more of your time for example), doing things you used to enjoy should increase your sense of well being and happiness. And if doing something you used to enjoy is off the cards (for me it was horse riding, which is now WAY out of my price range) then perhaps pick something you think you might enjoy. Join a new club or class, whether its learning to do make clay pots or going bowling :)
  • Do things which give your life meaning
    Now this one is a bit tricky because obviously you have to first find what gives your life meaning, which can be confusing. I generally follow this one however by trying to help others. I’m not sure who said it, or if it just one of those general phrases, but I remember being told once that the best way to help yourself is to help someone else. So while at university last year I went to a school and volunteered reading with the children. This summer I am volunteering helping out in a charity shop. If you look around there are lots of volunteering opportunities, and these don’t even have to be organised activities, you could do something as simple as offering to walk your elderly neighbor’s dog.
  • Social interaction
    So this one has been sort of latent in the previous three bits of advice, but social interaction has been shown to improve our sense of well being.
  • Exercise
    Exercise is another one which has been reliably proven to increase well being. Exercise releases endorphins which make you feel better, and it also gets you out of the house and out of your own head somewhat. Now for me exercise is another one I struggle with, perhaps because I am impatient and also a tad on the lazy side. Exercise doesn’t have to mean going for a three mile run every morning though, or joining the gym and devising yourself an intense exercise routine. The thought of either of those make me want to curl up in bed for the next 4 years :P Simpler exercises like going for a walk or a gentle swim count too, or if there is a sport you always wanted to try out like tennis or dance, then you’ll be not only checking exercise off this list, but also trying something new, and social interaction! Go you ;)
  • Diet
    In the same vein as exercise, diet is also important not only for our physical health, but it can also help our mental health *guiltily wipes cookie crumbs from corners of mouth*
  • Sleep
    Now if you are unfortunate enough to suffer a physical or mental illness, then you, like me, might find this one a tad patronizing. I’m sorry. But sleep has been shown to increase levels of well being, so if you are lucky enough not be affected by insomnia or another sleep disorder, then by getting your 8ish hours of sleep a night, then your well being should increase. For those of you who like me struggle with sleep, just ignore this one.
  •  Mindfulness/meditation/breathing
    These three were always ones I found a little….kooky. But studies have shown that they can  help in increasing well being. Mindfulness is based around the idea of living in the present moment, and mindfulness practices often focus a lot on meditation. I’m not pretending to be an expert on this…in fact last week I brought an audiobook entitled ‘Mindfulness for Dummies’. As all three of these have been shown to be useful for some people however, I have provided links below which may give you some more information.
  • Eliminate negative thinking patterns
    This is one I learned from my CBT sessions, and it aims to make you think less negatively. So if you mess up when making a cake and it ends up looking like a pancake, rather than berating yourself about it, you might think “Well the dog seemed to enjoy it anyway”, or “at least I made the icing alright” or “who needs to make cakes anyway, I’m a whizz at solitaire!”
  • Thinking positively
    Apparently it has been shown that thinking of three goof things about each day at the end of each day has been shown to increase well being. I am actually trying this one and have created a ‘happy things’ book, which forces you to see the good in the day as well as the bad.
  • Get help
    Obviously if you are here because you think you may have a problem or are suffering from a mental illness, then there is no shame in getting help, perhaps by confiding in a friend, going to therapy, or seeking help and advice from your doctor or medical professional. Nobody should suffer alone.

I hope these helped, please feel free to let me know in the comments below if you have any other things you feel would help people increase their well being or sense of happiness. Let me know also if you try any of these out and they help you…or feel free to have a go if you join a tennis club and hurt your ankle :P I think my next post in this mental health vein will be about ‘coming out’ about mental health issues, so please check back (or follow me/subscribe ;) ). Until next time, stay safe :) xxx

*Disclaimer* – By following these actions I cannot guarantee your well being will improve or that you will become happier, these are simply actions and activities which have been proven to increase well being and happiness in many people. This is not a medical site and so cannot posit to offer advice for any symptoms or conditions you may or may not have. Information posted on or linked by this site is not guaranteed to be accurate. The consequences of any use of information posted on this site is entirely at your own discretion. Batteries not included.

Useful Links

http://www.actionforhappiness.org/ – this organisation is specifically aimed at increasing well being and happiness, and has some really useful information, resources, and ideas for actions you can take if you are interested in reading more.

http://www.mind.org.uk/mental_health_a-z/8000_cognitive_behaviour_therapy – An overview of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) by the organisation MIND

http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-a-z/M/mindfulness/?gclid=CLC6sJ_ghrkCFQTHtAodQggAoQ  – Information on mindfulness from the mentalhealth.org

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Time to Change

So its me again, and seeing as I’ve been absent for a while I’m going to give you a quick update on whats been going on with me before getting into the real meat of this post. I finished my exams and did quite well in the end, so will be returning for my third year of university. Its the summer holidays at the moment so I’m just at home for now. I finished  my course of CBT at the university, and since then (may-ish) my depression has dissipated somewhat.

So what I really want to talk about today is actually mental health. Recently in the UK there has been a lot of  mental health awareness, mostly driven I believe by the ‘Time To Change’ campaign run by the organisations ‘Mind’ and ‘Rethink Mental Illness’. This campaign is aimed at both increasing awareness of mental illness through people talking about it, and also ending mental health discrimination. If you want more information, the link is  http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/. I really would recommend everyone checks it out, it has information on mental health, how you can help a friend/family member with mental health problems and blogs and stories. If you want to get involved you can make an online pledge, order packs containing leaflets etc., order a temporary tattoo to try and raise awareness (both the packs and tattoo are free), and it even has volunteering opportunities.

So in order to try and do my bit as it were, I have decided to try and make far more blogs about mental health to try and do my bit to make it easier for people unaffected to understand more about mental health, and hopefully to provide support and a sense of not being alone to those who suffer mental illnesses. I won’t only be blogging about mental health in future, but will also be doing my old random posts too, but if at least once a week I touch on this topic, and it helps just one person, then I think that will be worth it.

So this post really is just an introduction to what I will be doing in future, I hope you read the posts which follow and don’t simply ignore them, because even if you have no mental health problems of your own, someone you know will.  In order that you know what’s coming, my next post will be things I have been doing to try and improve my well being, which are probably good things for everyone to do, so please look out for that post on Sunday.

Until then, please check out the ‘Time To Change’ website (even if you are not in the UK and can’t get involved, the information may prove invaluable). Stay well xxx

Frankie from The Saturdays with her 'time to change' tattoo

Frankie from The Saturdays with her ‘time to change’ tattoo

Matt Johnsons Time To Change tattoo

Matt Johnsons Time To Change tattoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Useful links 

Time To Change website http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

Link to free promotional materials (Including the temporary tattoos) http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/resources/posters-leaflets

Mind website http://www.mind.org.uk/

Rethink Mental Illness http://www.rethink.org/?gclid=CMus97GsgrkCFS3HtAodhysABA

Or follow Time to Change on facebook and/or twittter!

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Dads

So I wanted to dedicate this post to my Dad, and really Dad’s in general. This week my Dad’s autoimmune disease has decided to rear its ugly head again, and I was going to write a post on disease and doctors and all those depressing things. Then I realized I didn’t want the internet just to see my Dad as a sick man, I want you all to know how great he is, how much joy he has brought his family, how much joy he still brings, and will hopefully continue bringing for years to come.

When he came home from work when we were little he used to play with us the moment he was through the door, lifting us in the air and tickling us. If Mum told him we had been being naughty, he would try and be stern and it would last only a few minutes, before asking if we wanted to play hide and seek. We would go and hide while Dad got changed out of his work clothes and into jeans and a t-shirt, and he would then start the hunt, always saying the line from Jack and the beanstalk “Here I come…I smell the blood of an Englishman, be he alive or be he dead, I’ll have his bones to grind for my BREAD”. Generally as our hiding places were behind the curtains with our toes poking out, or in bed trying to be as flat as possible, he would then pounce on us on the word bread. I’m honestly surprised there were not more peeing incidents because when you heard those words you would be terrified, trying frantically to control your breathing so your fearful panting didn’t give you away, either that or the nervous giggling!

Another game he used to play with us was called ‘rocky balboa’ – a reference I never got until I was a lot older. Bath-time on Sunday’s used to be Dad’s job. Now mostly this must have been torture for him. He would have all three of us in the bath, and would first wash the baby before the weekly drama that was hair washing. The no tears shampoo was such a lie, and he was never that careful, meaning there was always a crying incident. We would then be wrapped in towels with our ‘hair towels’ over our eyes, and he would carry us (pretty much dripping wet) through the house. We would always ask where we were going and insist “we’re going to your room aren’t we Daddy?!” which he would deny, and we would, without fail, believe every week. He would then sit on the edge of my parents bed with one of us in each arm, and throw himself backwards then sit back up repeatedly, always saying “rocky” on the way down and “balboa” as he sat back up.  And how we laughed.

Another of his jobs was the bedtime story. Mum was good at stories, but she never did the voices, Dad did low voices for the baddies, noble voices for the goodies, and sometimes a high pitched squeal  for a princess in distress, which I know he would have been embarrassed about if anyone else had heard! His job was also to walk the dog. We have had a dog for most of my life – first Blue, then Star and now Sky. All German Shepherds because they’re my Dad’s favorite, despite (or perhaps because) the fact that they are all nutters! Anyway, this meant if you wanted to go for a walk too you could go with Dad. There’s never any pressure to talk with Dad, and if you went to walk the dog with him you were assured some quality time.

Although he wanted daughters and was overjoyed when he got three, I think he also would have been great with sons just from the relationship he has with his nephews. I was always proud that my Dad is obviously seen as the best uncle in the family. I think he will also be a brilliant Granddad  especially when you factor in the fact that he will be able to spoil them in a way he was never allowed to spoil us, and the fact that he will never have to discipline them! I also hope that one of us has twins, Dad always wanted twins, so I hope maybe one of us will give him twin grandchildren!

He’s not just a great dad/potential granddad either, but a good husband. In some ways he is too lazy and takes advantage of my Mum – he doesn’t really do much around the house, he can’t (and doesn’t even try to) cook. But he always remembers to make little gestures so my Mum feels like she is appreciated, and he is the king of surprises, he has taken her on mini-holidays before purposely not for an occasion just so she feels special. My parents met when they were in sixth form (17ish) and so in all their pictures you can see them literally grow up together. I know some people don’t get on with their inlaws, but my Mum’s family is literally my Dad’s family too. When he was in hospital the first time, the nurses believed my Mum’s Mum was my Dad’s Mum because she would visit him to often and treat him exactly as you would expect a woman to treat her son. My Dad is also pretty protective of my mum, if you say anything against her (in anger) he will defend her. You can joke about her bad habits, but if you say one word in anger or nastiness against her, he will get very angry at you.

He loves to ski, and still tries to keep up with me and my sisters. He also loves the same books as me, which is very useful as it means I can buy the first of a series, lend it to him, and he will then buy all the others to read! He is tall with green eyes, and thinning hair, which is sad because it used to be a mop. He is skinny, but with a weird kind of beer belly. I think his shape is caused by the mediation he is on because he goes jogging two or three times a week for about an hour and a half to two hours. He also loves Spurs football club and has supported them forever.

Sorry it was such an essay, but once I started writing some things, more things I could say about him just came flooding into my head, and the love I have for him started flowing into my heart. So if you are religious (any religion), please pray for him. If you are not, please have him in your thoughts.

 

 

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#17 Fashion

So I know it’s been a long time since I have done a challenge post, but I thought this would be a great way to get me back into blogging regularly, plus an excellent way to procrastinate during revision season!

Lately I have seen a lot of fashion blogs cropping up, which may just be that I am noticing them more as opposed to everyone just sitting down at their computers and starting fashion blogs. Nonetheless, every other day there are pictures of girls (occasionally guys) in fashionable clothes posing, then comments about why the blogger likes it, why it works, where you can get it (or something similar).

I’ve personally never seen the fascination with fashion. Obviously having been a teenage girl it used to be very important which clothes I had hanging in my wardrobe, but never for my own benefit, only ever because I was worried what people at school would think of me. Nobody wants to be the girl who doesn’t fit in. Luckily like most schools in the UK my school had a uniform you had to adhere to, meaning the most choice you had was whether or not to wear socks or a jumper. Wearing either by the way was for some reason social suicide, meaning we all froze in winter, and boiled in summer. And of course in winter you were able (if you so wished) to pick out a ‘fashionable’ coat. Provided it was black or dark blue.

I guess this means I had it light really, as the only time I really had to worry about my clothes was when I was going out to meet my friends – when I was less bothered anyway as, lets face it, they already liked me! Non-uniform days were a mini-trauma, and I would have to go out and buy a new top in new look, but I never tried too hard, and I always blended in nicely, which was my aim.

Having gotten older the whole idea of fashion is now completely null to me. I now dress nicely when I actually want to like when going out, which I suppose is still partly because I want to ‘fit in’, but I don’t worry in the same way about what I am wearing, or who will judge me. If I feel good, then that’s enough for me. This apathy regarding fashion of course means that I don’t have a ‘style’ which seems to be a key word in all these fashion blogs. My style is ‘random’ or ‘found this in a sale and quite liked it’. I’m just not very good at putting things together, seeing what looks good etc., so I generally stick with my default fashion choice of jeans, boots (flats in summer..has anyone seen summer yet?!), a top, a cardigan/jumper/hoodie, and a coat/jacket. Done.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say I’m ‘above’ fashion, or that the idea of being concerned about your clothes is childish or silly, merely that it is an alien world to me; just as the art world is an strange place for me. Indeed, I think it takes some real skill to know what looks good with what, and on whom, but for me sadly it seems I will never know these things!

 

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Update

I’m so tired I can’t even think of a good title :( Pity and forgive me internet!

Despite my title being dismally boring however, it is accurate, this is an update on my life because I know this is what you wait all week for!

So I started going to CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) lecture thingies….most of the information I could have got off the internet if truth be told, and the rest is common sense. I was quite disappointed by this because as a psychology student we have looked at the application of CBT to a number of mental health issues, and it always seemed like a really good treatment on paper. I guess its useful in the way that it has reduced my feeling of loneliness though. I don’t mean this in the literal sense, though I suppose for some people going out and spending a couple of hours in a lecture would decrease their actual loneliness. But what I meant is that it’s reduced my loneliness in helping me realise that I’m not alone in feeling like this. Much as I wouldn’t wish what I feel sometimes on anyone, it is still a relief and comfort to know I’m not alone.

I had started taking St. Johns Wort again, and this time it actually helped in raising my mood a bit – I think my last attempt I was probably too down – its only meant for ‘low mood’ not actually depression. I have however stopped taking it again due to [men skip to the next paragraph here] issues with my cycle. I googled it and apparently it shouldn’t cause any changes, but the fact remains that I have been as regular as a clock in terms of timing and *cringe* flow since I was like 13, so I’m blaming the drug.

Welcome back menfolk (and any women who may also have been scared away). My work is also going a lot better, and I am managing to get a lot more done. It still worries me though how much other people are working. If I am now working at a slightly below average pace, other people are going at turbo speed. I’ve actually seen people working in lectures (as in, not related to the lecture we are in, but making notes for other modules); and my friend Alice is literally out of the house from 8 till 4 every day working in the library. Coupled with the sheer volume of work we have to learn, it makes me want to cry!

Does anyone else feel like this? Do other people at your college/university/school seem to become crazed revision machines too as soon as term 3 hits?! Also let me know if you have tried CBT and your experiences with it, I’m interested in seeing if other people share my views, or if maybe I feel this way because I’m a psychology student and maybe had way too optimistic ideas about it!

If I don’t hear from you in the comments, I should be posting again in a few days, I am trying to get back into writing regularly on here again (I know that’s what I always say, but I mean it this time!)

xxx

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Deadlines abound

So its that time of the year again, assignment deadlines all seem to come at once and stress everyone out!I submitted my work for one of the assignments last week, and tomorrow is the deadline for our second year project. I have just printed out the hard copy, and sent my electronic copy to the university. Its done. And I’m not happy with it.

It seems like I’m not happy with any of my work at the moment, and that’s because most of it is rubbish. The lack of concentration I’m struggling with at the moment means that when you read my work you can practically see where I went into a daydream, where I gave up and crawled back into bed, and where I stopped to have a little cry.

The work I submit is disjointed and confused. But then, it is the product of my disjointed and confused mind.

I know that there are options for me: I could request an extension, but I don’t think that would have helped. I simply would have taken longer on it, with days between writing it, meaning it would probably be more disjointed than what I just submitted.

At the moment I am just hoping to pass.

The last piece of work I submitted I got 40% on. I have never scored so low in my whole life, and 40% by the way is the minimum pass mark, meaning I am now going to have to work twice as hard in the exam.

Strangely I don’t care that much.

I have this weird double emotion thing going on at the moment. I know what I am supposed to feel. Normal Sarah would be horrified at a 40% mark. She would be really upset, probably have a little cry, and vow to do much better the next time. But current Sarah, despite knowing what she should feel, just doesn’t seem to care.

Does anyone else ever have this? A doubling of emotions where you know that you should feel one emotion, yet you just don’t, so you have to pretend to everyone else?

Anyway, that’s all from me for now, sorry for the rant, I wanted to do a university themed post because I haven’t given you one in a while, but sadly even my posts are suffering at the moment. Any smidge of creativity I had has fled. Now my deadlines are over though I will try and recapture it, and should have a more interesting post for you in a few days. Until then x

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I don’t even know

A teacher once told me that having asthma feels like an elephant sitting on your chest so you can’t breathe.

I think I have asthma of the soul.

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