Category Archives: Happy

Smoothie Bowl

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Have you seen the brightest new kid on the block?

Smoothie bowls have arrived!

If you’re a regular reader of the blog you’ll know I’m a big believer in food as medicine and the new trend of Smoothie Bowls is a fantastic way to take your medicine.

Different colour foods contain different nutrients and the deeper the colour the richer the source.

Not only that, but these delicious, healthy bowls are definitely instagram ready!

Personally I have the artistic flair of a dead slug, but even I can make one of these look reasonably attractive.

Choose brightly coloured fruits, nuts and seeds on a naturally coloured smoothie of your choice – from vibrant beetroot to cool blueberry, the rainbow is yours to play with. And if you want to go pastel, try freezing the fruit. You can even bejewel your creation with pomegranate seeds, redcurrants or citrus segments.

I’ve added a couple of my latest pics, but I’d love to see yours if you give them a go.

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What is Hypnosis?

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I have been a practising hypnotist for over 5 years now, and I really struggle to answer this very basic question.

What is Hypnosis? 

It’s difficult to answer because there are so many answers and so many different experiences of hypnosis. As far as I can tell, everyone seems to experience it in different ways. For some (around about 1-2%) it feels really uncomfortable and they struggle to find a way in. For others (10-20%) it’s a magical experience that alters their reality in easily accessible ways – these are the people who are chosen for stage hypnotist shows where they make things invisible etc. For the vast majority of people it is neither of those things. Instead they will tell me “It was like I was listening to you speak, and I heard what you were saying, but it felt like my mind drifted and it was like I was fading in and out.”

If you ask ‘experts’ on hypnosis you will get lots of different opinions and views too. Some believe it is a state of mind that we drift into and out of all the time. Some believe that it is a way of accessing your true self. Some believe it allows you to reach back into past lives. You will hear words like conscious and subconscious as though they are areas of the brain that can be poked and prodded. People talk of somnambulist (or sleep walkers) and ‘depths’ of hypnosis as though you can be a bit hypnotised or really hypnotised.

At one time I described it as a directed placebo effect as I believed that you had to ‘buy into’ the process for it to work, but over the years I have learned that this isn’t true either.

Let me tell you my truth about hypnosis – it’s just your imagination.

Now, please don’t read the word ‘just’ and think I am not giving your imagination the credit it deserves. Your imagination is probably the most amazing thing about you. It allows you to formulate plans, predict the future, extrapolate ideas, and create stories. It allows you to interpret sound, sight, smell and touch – to understand and empathise. It is essentially you.

The skill of the hypnotist comes into play to allow you to use your imagination in a useful, productive and often amazing way.

Take a look at most Hypnotherapist’s websites and you will find a list of the most common things they deal with..

Addiction (including smoking)

Weight Loss

Phobias

Anxiety and stress management.

What do all of these things have in common? They are created from belief patterns.

I can’t live without…. or I can’t stop thinking about….or I can’t be around…..or I can’t cope with….

Actually none of those statements are true.

You absolutely can live without whatever it is you are hooked on (as long as it’s not food, water, air etc) by changing how you think about it.

You can totally stop thinking of anything.

You can be around something you have a phobia of, as long as you change your fear response (which was created by your imagination in the first place).

You can cope – you just need to learn how.

A skilled hypnotist can provide you with enough input to help you to make a change, but it is a collaborative process. It happens because you want it to. In fact, if you have the skills and knowledge you don’t need another person to be involved at all. Many, many people around the world employ self hypnosis techniques like the Betty Erickson technique, the eye fixation technique or the switch technique – so it’s not something that has to be done to you. You can hypnotise yourself.

So, what is hypnosis? I’m still not entirely sure, but for me it is focused, beneficial use of your imagination to achieve a desired outcome.

Why don’t you have a try for yourself and see what happens? Maybe you’ll get the results you’re looking for. Maybe you won’t. If you do – Fantastic! I’m thrilled you’ve found this potential within yourself. If you don’t – why not give your friendly, local hypnotherapist a call and see if they can nudge you in the right direction.

 

 

 

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How do I improve my confidence?

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I had a message from a client today who told me that she was doing something that she had not been able to do for a long time, thanks to some work that we had done together. I was thrilled for her, for changing her thinking and freeing herself from an old fear. Then she told me that she still didn’t feel confident and asked ‘How do I improve my confidence?

What a great question!

My first reaction was ‘Fake it ’til you make it’ – Let me explain.

When we start to do something new, we often don’t feel very confident about it. We are learning the rules, how it works (or doesn’t work) and what to do. As we get more accustomed to situations, we become more assured, as we feel like we understand what is expected from us and how we will deal with things if they go wrong. We know the script.

When we ‘Fake it’, we create the illusion of confidence. Part of the illusion we create is our body language.

Here’s a little exercise for you.

Stand up and fake (or act) being nervous or anxious. Notice the shape of your body. Are your shoulders back or hunched over? Is your head up or are you looking down? If you step forward to you take a large or small step? How’s your breathing?

Now, change it up and fake being confident. Notice the same things about your body?

How does each make you feel? How would other people react to the body language you are portraying?

I want to look at each of these separately – first, how does it make you feel?

Our minds and our bodies are in a constant state of biofeedback. That means that what we think affects our body and what our body does, affects what we think. When you get scared about something it affects your body – your heart rate increases, you breath more shallowly and faster and you get butterflies in your stomach. Weirdly, if you create these sensations in your body artificially, say through drug use, you can create anxiety. One affects the other. So, by creating the sort of body language a confident person would demonstrate, we can give our thoughts a confidence boost.

Secondly, how do people react to you? Most people will take you at face value. If you look confident they will assume that you are confident. They will then infer that you are confident because you are a strong capable person who knows how to handle themselves.  If you look anxious they will assume you are anxious and that you have a reason to be anxious. They will treat you accordingly. If they are a kind and generous person they may offer to help you. If they are a bully or an aggressor they may see you as a potential victim. We then receive the feedback from the people around us and that in turn affects our own feelings. If you are constantly being bullied it will impact on your self-confidence in a negative way, just as if you are always the one who people turn to it in a crisis, you will feel your self confidence improve.

Another way you can work on confidence is to understand your own feelings and emotions better. Mindfulness techniques can be incredibly powerful tools to do this.

In the end, the best way to improve your confidence is to repeat whatever it is you are doing until you become really good at it, but to speed the process up, a little bit of faking it can go a long way.

 


If you have ever asked yourself ‘How do I improve my confidence?’ and a bit of ‘fake it ’til you make it’ isn’t cutting it for you, you may want to see a therapist. Don’t get caught in a cycle of fear – take the step and get yourself moving forward in a positive way.

 

 

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What is Mindfulness?

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Mindfulness is a term that is being used a lot at the moment, but do you know what it’s actually all about?

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness started out as a practise in India about 2500 years ago. It was created as a type of mediation that allowed the practitioner to be present in the moment and to notice what was happening in their own mind. To notice their thoughts, feelings and emotions and give themselves the time and space to look at them, hear them and to react to them in a non judgemental, balanced way.

There is a direct correlation between our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Think about this for a moment..

You wake up in a great mood. ‘Today is going to be a good day’ you think to yourself. You get up, go through your morning routine and leave the house. When you get to work you see a parking space and get ready to move into it. Just as you are about to take the space someone else grabs it. How do you feel? What do you do?

Now, go through the same scenario but with you waking up in a terrible mood, convinced that today is going to be a nightmare. Now how do you feel? What do you do?

Did you get the same response each time? If you’re being honest with yourself, probably not. Yet both of the situations were identical apart from the first thoughts and emotions you were feeling. See how they can influence things?

One very effective form of therapy is CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy. It uses the same principles of analytically looking at our own thoughts and deciding if they are appropriate or not and then adjusting them accordingly. For instance if someone was suffering from OCD they may have a thought or belief pattern that makes them believe that if they do not carry out a certain action or set of actions then bad things will happen. Using mindfulness and or CBT techniques, they would learn to be able to notice these thoughts and to consider them in a balanced non judgemental way. With practice this can change and alter them into healthier patterns, which in turn, changes their behaviours.

Mindfulness is more than just this though. It is the ability to be in the moment. To fully appreciate what you are experiencing.

How many times have you not enjoyed something because you were worried about something else? Lost yourself in your fears that were totally unnecessary? Many of the clients I see as a Hypnotherapist suffer from social anxiety. This can be crippling and stop people enjoying their life, yet it doesn’t have to be the case. Simply learning and practicing mindfulness can eliminate it entirely.

In some ways Mindfulness is like a work out for your mind. It strengthens it, makes it more flexible and more able to handle things if and when they get tough. It’s like exercise in another way as well – it takes training and practice to get good at it. In this way your mind is like a muscle. You need to exercise it, to make it stronger before you have to do the heavy lifting or the marathon. You start small, get frustrated, keep at it and get better.

So, next time you think about a bit of self-care or self-improvement, you might want to consider getting yourself on a mindfulness course. Start small, practice and get stronger so that you are mentally as well as physically ready for anything life throws at you, and if someone asks you what is mindfulness, you’ll be able to tell them.

 

 

 

 

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Dans Le Noir – Eating in the dark

I recently had a genuinely new experience.

My partner and I had a meal in the dark – I’m not talking about eating a burger with the lights off, I’m talking about a full three course meal, with strangers in total darkness.

It’s rare enough to be in total darkness – to literally not be able to tell if you have your eyes open or closed. Then we had the added layer of being around people we had never met (or knew were there) and eating a mystery meal.

Let me explain.

There is an amazing restaurant in London (and at other locations around the world) called Dans Le Noir. When you arrive, you go into a fairly standard waiting area with a bar. It’s dimly lit, but everything is easily visible. The host then asks you to use one of the free lockers provided to stow away your bag, coat and any piece of jewelry, watch or electronic equipment that can emit light or glows in any way.

Next you are invited to choose from the menu. You have the choice of 2 or 3 courses and a choice of menu plan – vegetarian, seafood, meat or chef’s choice, which could be anything at all. Being in an adventurous frame of mind, we both opted for the Chef’s choice and waited to be seated.

At the alloted time we were asked to enter an even more dimly lit corridor where we were told what would happen. We just needed to push through the curtain in front of us where we would be met by our waiter for the evening. With some slight trepidation we stepped into total darkness. We moved in single file with one hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us, with the front person being led by our waiter. We couldn’t see him, but he gave us clear instructions as we all shuffled round the impossibly dark room to our seats.

One of the unique elements of this restaurant is that all the waiters are blind. In normal everyday life, it’s common to think of someone who is blind as being disabled or limited, but in this situation they had the upper hand over us. Without our waiter we would have been totally lost. He navigated the space with ease and we were utterly reliant on him.

When we were seated, we found our place settings, napkins (which we were advised to tuck into our collars) and water glasses. We were seated opposite our partners on a long trestle table – think the dining hall in Harry Potter but scaled down. I actually have no idea how long it was – I’m totally guessing!

After a few minutes of working out our space and checking in with each other we worked out that there was a couple seated to my right (who had recently got married) and initially empty seats to my left.

We were bought a bottle of water. Simple enough right? Try pouring yourself a glass of water from a bottle with your eyes closed – certainly not impossible, but it takes a bit of thinking about.

Conversation quickly started. As we had heard the couple to my right, we did the fairly natural thing of introducing ourselves. Under normal circumstances, that may have been the only conversation we had with those people as we became absorbed in our own experience, but that too was changed by the dark. When a question or statement was made, we had no way of knowing who it was aimed at, so the comfortable thing to do was to respond. At one point I mentioned (to my partner) that my eyes were playing tricks on me in the darkness and it was like I could see stars – but not like the sky at night, like I was going into warp drive on a spaceship from Star Wars or something – the next thing I knew we were having a 6 way conversation with people (some of whom I had no idea were even there) about Star Wars – so surreal!

Then came the food. I don’t want to tell you guys what we ate in case you try this experience for yourselves, but I do want to share what it was like for me.

The first challenge is finding your food on the plate – I’m not going to lie, fingers played an extensive role in my eating. You just don’t get enough feedback from cutlery to let you know what you’re dealing with. Then came the taste. When you recognise what you are eating, it all makes sense, but when you are unsure it can become very confusing. I thought one piece of meat was pork, then steak before I came to the conclusion it was venison. FYI I was wrong all three times!

We both quickly realised how easily things could be adapted to make it easier when you couldn’t see – for instance you could have dents or marks in the table so that you knew where your place setting started and finished and you could make the handle of the fork different textures on the front and the back so you knew which way round it was.

Part way through our main course some new people came in and were seated on my left. It was so interesting to hear them work through things in the way we had done and to notice how quickly we had become acclimated to the situation.

It was almost disappointing when the end came and we moved back to normality. Our waiter graciously helped us back to the lit world where we saw his face for the first time – I have to admit he looked nothing like I thought he would and at that moment I realised how much store I put in what someone looks like, despite my many and varied protestations that looks do not matter. The was a quote in the reception area that said one of the unique elements of this experience was it’s lack of Vanity, and that certainly held true for me.

The final part of the experience was to have the menu shown to you. I was genuinely surprised at how wrong I had got some of it. I like to think of myself as a bit of a foodie, and whilst some of the dishes were a bit unusual, I had got some really simple stuff wrong. Like – really wrong.

I would strongly recommend this to anyone, especially someone who enjoys a great meal, but even if you’re not a gastronomic explorer, do something that changes your experience. You learn more in a couple of hours of immersion than you ever will thinking about what it would be like.

There is so much more I could write about this – it was (if you will excuse the pun) an eye opening experience, but I’ll finish with a couple of my favourite quotes from the evening.

“Just pop your finger in and you can’t go wrong”

“The tentacles got the better of me”

“Are you still there?”

and last but not least

“That’s not my hand”

 

 

 

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New Year, New Me?

Hello beautiful people! How’s your New Year going so far?

Have you set yourself a load of New Year’s resolutions or are you planning on staying exactly as you currently are? If you’re perfect already, why change?

Most of us haven’t quite achieved the ‘perfect’ status as yet and so may have some things that we are working on – getting fitter, slimmer, happier, richer, calmer, more motivated or maybe even just working on blogging more!

I’m a big fan of learning, growing and self improvement, but more importantly than all of that I’m an advocate of being kind to yourself.

I see lots of clients with various issues that they are looking to change. One of the most common factors that runs through all of them is a lack of self kindness. When I hear the words people use about themselves it horrifies me. I honestly believe that most people are bullies.

As a society, we generally frown on bullying. We dislike it when people use aggressive or hurtful language to each other. We cringe when people call other people names. We are against shaming people – and yet we seem to do it to ourselves all the time.

See if you can recognise any of these thoughts…

I’m not good enough

I hate myself

I’m so stupid

I’m fat and disgusting

I’m too thick to do that

I have no self control

I am so embarrasing

I’m useless

Now imagine saying that to someone you care about? Would you say any of this to someone you love?

You’re not good enough

I hate you

You’re so stupid

You’re fat and disgusting

You’re too thick to do that

You have no self control

You’re so embarrasing

You’re useless

Sounds pretty awful right? I know if someone spoke to me that way I wouldn’t want to hang out with them and I certainly wouldn’t call them motivational or helpful.

When I think about motivational work, I think about supportive, helpful language. Words that will encourage and lift the person hearing them. Things like…

You CAN do this

You can achieve anything you set your mind to

It’s a learning process, keep trying

Everyone has to start somewhere

You are in control

We all make mistakes, forget it and move on

I’m proud of the effort you are putting in

Look how far you’ve come

These things sound more like something I would say to a friend or someone I cared about. Think about how these words would make you feel compared to the earlier list.

For most of us, changing the way we speak to ourselves takes some practice. The chances are that we have been using bullying language for a long time, so it may take a concerted effort to change your internal dialogue – and that’s OK. It’s a learning process. Don’t give up, you are in control. If you even give this a go I will be so proud of you for trying to make a positive change – you CAN do this!


Changing the way that you think and feel can sometimes be challenging when you are trying to do all the work yourself. If you need a helping hand, take one! There are plenty of people like me who are professional therapists who’s passion in life is to help people like you feel the way you want to. Hypnotherapy is a great tool to take some of the hard work out of these sort of changes.

 

 

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The language of food and what it means.

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A lot of the people I see come to me because they have issues with their weight.

The vast majority of them want to lose weight (though some have issues around limited eating or eating disorders) and they often tell me that they struggle to control their hunger. They are sometimes ‘always hungry‘ and sometimes ‘eat when they are not hungry’. When I ask them about their ‘Newsfeed’, I often get a confused look.

Let me explain where I’m coming from.

Language is a funny thing – especially the English language. It is full of metaphor, simile, multiple meanings and interesting roots. The use of language influences the way we think – so much so that when people do brain scans of bilingual people, they can sometimes differentiate between which language they are thinking in! As a result, the words we think in can influence our feelings and therefore our behaviours.

So, let’s explore some language around eating.

Metaphors around food and eating

Food / eating metaphors are often associated with things we like or dislike

‘That’s just to my taste’  ‘You’re my cup of tea’  ‘I could eat him up’ ‘She’s the cream of the crop’  ‘That’s the cherry on the top’

or

‘It left a bad taste in my mouth’  ‘That thought turns my stomach’ ‘scraping the bottom of the barrel’  ‘I’m sick of this feeling’

There are also lots of metaphors related to food and eating when it comes to information.

‘Here’s some food for thought’ ‘Do you just swallow everything you are told?’ ‘Do you fall for it hook, line and sinker?’ ‘How’s is your newsfeed?’ ‘Do you like things sugarcoated?’ or maybe you ‘take things with a pinch of salt’. If things are too ‘plain’ or ‘bland’ do you want them to be ‘spiced up a little?’ If you have ‘too much on your plate’ do you ‘break it down to bite sized chunks’ or spend time ‘ruminating’ on it? If you ‘bite off more than you can chew’, do you find it ‘hard to digest?’ or then again maybe you just ‘choke’. Do you ‘Cherry Pick’ your information or do you want to ‘have your cake and eat it?’

One of the quirks of being us is that we often conflate things. In this case the language of eating and the language of information.

This then begs the question, are there similarities between your approach to information and your approach to food?

Do you believe everything that you see or hear, or are you particular about where your information comes from?

Do you only look for information when you need it or are you permanently on the look out for stimulation?

Do you focus your attention at a particular time or are you always open for more?

Are you fussy about what you let in?

Do you like to be entertained with fast, cheap, junk or are you looking for something that nourishes you?

For those of you on WordPress, look are your reader lists – what do you see? If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, what does your ‘newsfeed’ look like? How often do you look at it?


I am constantly fascinated with the language of metaphors and would love to know of any more that you think of, or any insights you may have.

Please leave any feedback in the comments – I’m ‘hungry to hear’ what you have to say!

 

 

 

 

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How do I help a fussy eater?

Hello beautiful people!

It’s May already. A third of the way through the year? How’s it going? Are you getting closer to your goals? Have you given up on them? Maybe they’ve just changed as your priorities have.

In January I decided that May would be a good month to talk about food. So, here goes.

Food – I love food. That’s not quite right – I LOVE food. I’m one of those people who wake up in the morning thinking about what they are going to eat today. I enjoy eating it, I enjoy cooking it, I enjoy shopping for it, I enjoy trying new things and revisiting old familiar things.

I like exploring food – if there is a new taste, a new texture, a new sensation to be had – I want it. My partner recently tried miracle berries. They were on my bucket list to try, so I was very excited to give them a go.

Miracle berries have a strange property. They stop you from tasting sour. So we lined up a load of foods which you normally think of as sour or sharp. We cut up lemons, limes, grapefruit and cooking apples. We got sharp tasting liquids like lemon juice, and vinegar. We got pickled things like onions and cabbage. We even got some guinness – not a classically sharp taste, but suggested as part of our little experiment. We got them all lined up and sucked on our miracle berries.

You have to keep them in your mouth for about 5 minutes. They don’t have a particular taste and there was no real sensation so I was a little doubtful that they would work. We were both a little nervous going for our first sharp flavour, but figured in for a penny, in for a pound, so grabbed a wedge of lemon and bit in….

….and it was delicious! It had the sweetest, loveliest flavour ever! We were so thrilled with the effect we blatted through the rest of the foods, amazed with their varying flavours. It was a really good fun half an hour. The effect started to wear off towards the end, but it was a gradual fade, so the sharpness just crept in slowly, and was kind of great too.

As part of my practice I’ve worked with a few people with food phobias. Generally these are adults, as for some reason, people think it’s perfectly OK for their kids to be fussy eaters. They let their kids get away with a restricted diet which then leads to issues for them as adults. As well as obvious problems like malnutrition, poor skin, poor eyesight and generally poor health, being a fussy eater can make it more difficult for people to socialise, to be around others, to train and to manage their weight. For me, eating new things is such a joy, I love helping people discover that joy for themselves.

A couple of quick tricks you can try if you are trying to eat new things.

First – don’t force it! All you are doing is building resistance if you try to force yourself to eat something. Try getting yourself in a position where you can be relaxed and comfortable before you try a new food.

Secondly – make it a really small amount. What ever food you are trying, cut a really small amount of it up. I mean really small. Then put that tiny piece in your mouth. Notice what it feels like, what tasted you notice, what thoughts it makes you think of. Do this every day for a month. Always try a small piece, but if you feel more confident, you can make it a bit bigger each time.

Finally – cook it in a different way. Don’t like boiled carrots? Try roasting them…or poaching them in sugar water with star anise, or grating them on a salad, or grating them into a bolognaise sauce, or just try them raw! Just because you don’t like them the way that you’ve tried them before, doesn’t mean you won’t like them a different way.

 

 

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How can I be happier?

A lot of people ask me ‘How can I be happier?’

Before that can be answered there are a few things that need to be defined. Firstly, what does happy mean to you? Then, how happy are you right now?

To me being happy equates to being content. If that is your goal I think you can be happy for much of your life. Others have told me that to them being happy is feeling joy. For people with that definition, happiness is fleeting and they will experience happiness for short periods, fairly infrequently.

Do you seek joy every moment of your life? If so, I fear that you will be perpetually disappointed. Even if your life moved from one amazing moment to another, you would quite quickly stop experiencing joy. Joy is an extreme emotion. It’s the thin end of the wedge, the edges of the bell curve. For brief moments it lights our life, but we cannot feel it all the time.

If your definition of happy is contentment, you will feel ‘happy’ much more of your life. This in turn makes you feel grateful and lucky, which leads to feeling even happier with your lot.

So, one way to be happier is to lower your expectations of what happy means.

Then we need to look at how happy you are right now. If you had to scale it between 1 and 10, with 1 being extremely unhappy and 10 being as happy as you can be, where would you score yourself? The chances are you are somewhere between 4 and 7. If that’s the case, you can probably do things to make yourself feel more happy. If you are at the extremes of the scale it can be harder to make a difference.

Obviously, if you are already on a 10, it’s going to be very difficult for you to feel happier than you are right now – there’s literally nowhere left for you to go. Awesome!

If you are at the other end of the scale, down in the 1-3 group, you are in a fairly dark place. There are lots of reasons that this may be the case. Firstly, something awful may have happened in your life. Loss of a loved one, bullying and poor health can put you in this place. All of these are things which take some getting over. Yes, there are professionals out there who can help get you through this time and support you with psychological strategies, but they are still difficult things to deal with. If you felt happy during one of these experiences, I would suggest there is other work to do.

Other reasons that people can feel deeply unhappy are anxiety and depression. These are two different issues which can be very difficult, but are also eminently treatable. With talking therapies people can work through these life limiting issues and get back to regular levels of happy – not happy all the time – just regular happy.

This brings me onto the final idea around wanting to be more happy. There is a regular level of happy. If you are happy all the time, you may have a problem. If you are unhappy all the time, you may have a problem. Even the best adjusted most balanced people experience happiness and unhappiness. It’s normal and natural. If you want to be happy all the time, you are setting yourself up for disappointment – which leads you to be less happy! There are things that steal our happiness, and we can work on reducing them, but if you love, you will experience loss. If you achieve, you will have to deal with defeat. Ups and downs are all part of the rich tapestry that is our complicated life.

My tip for today is be grateful.

Experiments have repeatedly shown that being grateful is one of the key things that makes us happy. Write down three different things every day that you are grateful for. It’s easy to start with big concepts like being alive, having a home, waking up this morning, but as time goes by you have to look for more detailed, smaller reasons to be grateful. Things like a good cup of coffee, a smile from a neighbour, enjoying a TV programme, somebody liking your blog post or even a positive comment…all of these things make me grateful, which is why I experience happiness every day.

Wishing every one of you a happy, healthy day. I’m so grateful you’ve taken the time to read this x

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How do I help someone with addiction?

One of the most frustrating things on earth is watching someone you love throw their life away on an addiction.

It seems like nothing you say or do gets through to them. In fact the more you try to help them, the deeper they seem to sink into their addiction.

Sometimes that’s just annoying. Other times it’s a life and death situation.

If someone is addicted to coffee, you may not approve, but the chance are they’ll be ok. If they’re addicted to smoking, it may well be killing them, but it’s happening slowly and it may or may not affect them. If they’re addicted to alcohol, illegal or legal drugs they could be in more imminent danger. If they’re addicted to starving themselves, you may be watching them die.

Yet, despite this they don’t seem to be able to get their heads around the damage that they are doing to themselves. It’s as though the connections between what they ‘know’ is happening and the consequences to them are entirely gone.

I know this from personal experience.

I was a smoker for 17 years. I started when I was 21 (entirely old enough to know better) and quit 5 years ago. I can remember people saying to me “you know it’s bad for you right?” as though I was a moron or lived under a rock or something. People on the street would come up to me and say things like “It’ll stunt your growth you know”. I think they thought that was funny as I’m 6ft tall and a grown ass woman. My mum (an ex smoker) hated the fact I smoked and would ask me repeatedly to quit.

None of that made any difference.

It wasn’t about education either. As I said, I started smoking when I was 21. I was working as a microbiologist in Liverpool having been to University studying Biochemistry. I knew what smoking did to a body. I knew what it ‘could’ do to me. The thing was, it didn’t really do anything nasty at first. It was just a laugh with mates when we were out drinking. By the time I’d developed a smokers cough, I was already well into the addicted part.

So what made me try to quit? For me it was my best friend. I was complaining to her about people moaning at me about smoking and she said “So, are you just going to smoke until you die?” That was it. No attitude, no lecture, just a question. A question I had to think about. As I thought about it over the next couple of weeks I realised I didn’t want to die a smoker. I could visualise what my old woman self would look like smoking and coughing, wheezing along, maybe with an oxygen tank….and it horrified me. So then I had to think, well if I don’t want to die smoking, I’m going to have to quit at some point. Why not now? I mean it’s not like it’s going to get any easier?

Here’s my advice.

Don’t

  1. Don’t Nag – it’s annoying and it just makes people dig their heals in.
  2. Don’t lecture – it just makes the person being lectured at think up opposite arguments, which then helps to persuade them that what they’re doing is OK
  3. Don’t promise rewards for abstinence – study after study has shown that offering rewards convinces the psyche that it must mean that thing they are being asked to do is difficult.

Do

  1. Model the behaviour you want them to adopt. If you have someone in your life who is drinking too much, don’t drink around them. Don’t make a thing of it, just don’t do it. If you do what you are asking them not to, it just normalizes it for them and they think you’re an idiot.
  2. Spend time with them. Show them they are loved and worth loving. One of the main reasons people self harm (and addiction IS a form of self harm) is because they don’t like themselves very much
  3. Do fun stuff that distracts from their addiction. The more good stuff they have going on in their lives, the less room there is for bad stuff.
  4. Ask questions. Get them to think about what they are doing, in their own time, in their own way
  5. Be prepared for the fact that you may never get through to them. Ultimately you have to accept that it’s their life to live.

One final note – don’t forget to look after yourself. Don’t get obsessed with their addiction. It won’t help you or them. Take care of yourself and model healthy, social behaviour. It’s more powerful than you know.


If you or someone you know has an issue with addiction, get help. You do not have to deal with this on your own. There are plenty of support groups online and in person. There are also thousands of professionals out there who can help you.

Good luck on your journey

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