Device-ive

I have spoken to a number of people (someones) recently who have admitted to playing some 2-3 hours plus games online virtually every day, some days even up to 8 -10 hours, especially if the weather was inclement. Of course that’s a good reason to remain indoors and vegetate, right? Another someone cited the reason for playing daily was that the animals would die if one didn’t play every single day; that is the imagined animals in the hypothetical farm. That’s reason enough to play every day, right? No-one wants their animals to die!

The next part of the conversation went on to calculating how many hours this meant over a longer time frame. So this is how it went.

2 hours/day = 14 hours/week = 728 hours/year = 30.33 days/year spent on ONE game.

Now if this was 3 hours/day = 21 hours/week = 1092 hours/year = 45.5 days/year spent on ONE game.

Either way, that’s one plus months per year spent on one game!!!!! Every twelve years it’s a year of your life. Who would have thought?……..idle time tending to animals in an imaginary farm. That’s a great way to relax, and wind down right?

These someones were individually shell-shocked by the calculation!! “I never thought of it this way” someone said in complete disbelief, head shaking and spinning into sympathetic nervous system overload.

I followed this up with a query whether this particular someone had been doing the daily exercise (just walking) that we had talked about, and which might be helpful for one’s physical and mental health and well-being. The very quick, automatic answer was “I didn’t have time”. Valid reason, right? Those animals are way more important than one’s well-being, and there’s so many of them.

Now this is where it gets device-ive. We’re talking about any/all devices here, right. It’s easy to see this as an observer of someone else, and make judgments upon their behaviour and justifications, but do we actually observe our own habits on whatever the electronic device might be and how we choose to spend our time, whether it be in the home environment, dining out at a restaurant, in the company of others etc.

I confess that this someone has become a Netflix “addict” in recent times, and something of a “voyeur” on Facebook in another life of course, an obsessive “save-er” on Pinterest who has hundreds of followers of folders and pins I rarely go back to…….And then I wonder why “I didn’t have time” comes out of MY mouth for the various creative pursuits I would love to have achieved in bygone days and months.

If, just if it were a month (that’s 30 lots of 24 hours) I might have spent over the past year watching Netflix (hypothetically of course), then maybe I would have completed the Snapfish photo-books of the overseas trips from ten years ago, decluttered every room of my home, reduced the sewing pile in my craft room, produced the hand-made gifts and cards I promised myself I would make for many someones‘ birthdays this year, added to my life journal “Whatever makes you happy” on a more regular basis, spent more time in the great outdoors, played more strategy games, had more fun, learned to dance, played the piano…..and so the list goes on! Oh, that list is just ridiculously endless.

But then our human mind is amazingly wonderful at justification……I work hard, right! Of course I deserve some down time!

Human behaviour is pretty complex……….therein lies the device-iveness!

 

What’s Up?

What’s Up app.

One of the most useful tools I have found in my clinical practice are phone apps. Given that much of what we carry around with us is now portable and accessible on our phone, it makes sense to also carry around some great coping tools on our mobile phone. It’s right there whenever you need it.

What’s Up? is a fantastic free app utilising some of the best CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) methods to help you cope with Depression, Anxiety, Anger, Stress and more! Not only does it provide sound information, there are very practical coping strategies like self-monitoring and forums to connect with others.

Key Features include:

*12 common negative thinking patterns and simple methods to overcome them
• 10 great metaphors to help you cope with negative feelings
• A comprehensive diary to keep your thoughts and feelings together in, including the ability to rate feelings on a scale out of 10
• A positive and negative habit tracker. Set goals to practice those good habits while ending the bad ones!
• A catastrophe scale. Put your problems into a better perspective when things are too much
• A grounding game containing over 100 fun questions to help keep you grounded and in the present when stress is taking over
• 3 simple breathing techniques for keeping calm and relaxed
• Forums! Talk with people that may be feeling just like you from all around the planet, without worrying about the like/dislike system
• More than 70 positive quotes, with the ability to add your own and share them with the world!

Mind your Mind

poo-favorite-day
from Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne

Some say that depression is a disorder focused on the past (past regrets, should haves, painful woundings, failed relationships, along with an inability to see a positive future) and anxiety is a disorder of the future (fear and worry about what might happen, and most likely won’t).

Somehow, we completely tune out to the present.

I love the saying: YESTERDAY is history, TOMORROW is a mystery, and TODAY is a gift.

That’s why we call it the PRESENT.

How do we literally get out of our mind – our crazy human mind that over-processes information, ruminates, worries – and get into our life.

EASY – learn to live in the present.

Smell the beautiful jasmine that bloomed, cascading over the arbour in my front garden in spring, look into the sky at the influx of countless Caper White butterflies that swarmed in the Gold Coast skies some months ago, hear the squish of the sand beneath your feet on our amazing pristine beaches, listen to the revelry and laughter of the children as they splash in the swimming pool, savour the taste and textures of the freshly made lemon meringue cheesecake, smell the freshness of the rain as the heavens open, feel the warmth of the sunshine as it penetrates your skin.

Be MINDFUL versus MINDLESS.

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from Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne

When we are mindless we are at the mercy of our thought processes and the busy-ness of our everyday lives. We get caught up in our thinking and doing. Being mindful is just that, being!

It’s being present . . . .  and enjoying each and every moment of the day.

Just like Pooh and Piglet!

“You make me so angry” !

There are many versions of this. “She made me so upset”. “He made me feel stupid”.

So many people blame others for what they are feeling.

They then act on the feeling, and believe it is the other person’s fault for what they have done.you-make-me-angry

Our feelings are a choice. NOBODY can MAKE you feel anything.

If somebody says something hurtful to you, you have two choices: firstly you can personalise it and internalise what they have said and feel hurt, upset, angry, sad etc,

OR secondly you can choose not to let it affect you and recognise the deficit is more in them than yourself.

As Don Miguel Ruiz wrote in his Toltec Wisdom Book…….”that person tries to send poison to you and if you take it personally, then you take that poison and it becomes yours…….you eat all their emotional garbage, and now it becomes your garbage”.

REMEMBER . . . . . . . . . . . . . the power is within you to choose how you feel.

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This is not to say that we deny the feelings of disappointment, hurt, anger etc. but that we acknowledge them and deal with them. Whether this means learning how to be more assertive and letting the other person know how hurt you have felt for what they said or did……….or asserting that “I will not let that person “infect” or “affect” me with their personal demons, there is always a choice.

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Do you have faith?

leap-of-faith_724_482_80I have a grand-daughter named Faith. I have a faith tattoo. I also have faith in the inherent goodness of human nature. We often hear the phrase that someone took a leap of faith.

Faith comes in many forms.

One perspective is that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hence we take that leap into the unknown, hopeful of a positive outcome. Faith can be the complete confidence or trust in someone or something. Faith can also be strong beliefs in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.

What do you believe? In my clinical practice I find it interesting that many people are unaware of what they actually believe, whether it’s in the here and now or beyond.. We all know that life here on earth is finite, but some avoid thinking about what happens beyond the day they die.

What we do on a daily basis, whether we realise it or not is driven by our belief system, the core beliefs around how the world works based on the conditioning we have received from the moment we took our first breath. These can range from a core belief that “I am a worthwhile/worthless person” to “I believe in God” to superstitious beliefs such as “I believe that if you walk under a ladder that you will have some form of bad luck”. Often we are completely unaware of what our core beliefs are and how they can contribute to our happiness or conversely perpetuate our misery.

Our belief system and our faith go hand in hand. From a psychological perspective our core beliefs about ourselves and how the world works can be the basis for either happiness or misery. What differentiates a person who believes that all things are possible and “I can do anything I put my mind to”, to someone who believes that “It’s impossible” or “I can’t do that”?

I contend that faith actually underpins our beliefs. We can subscribe to a belief in something, but when we have faith, it’s the belief that there’s something bigger than ourselves that allows us take that leap into the unknown. I truly believe that we are not human beings going through a temporary spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings going through a temporary human experience. I think that’s something worth thinking about . . . . . . . . . .faith11

What’s on your Bucket List?

imgresThere is nothing more certain in life than the fact we will all die. I guess we all hope it’s not too soon.

So comes the bucket list. What have you been putting off doing because you’re too busy with life right now?

I know I would (surprise surprise) like to go to an AFL grand final (love the hype of it all). I want to jump out of an aeroplane (with a parachute and attached to someone else of course).

I want to see the Taj Mahal. Done the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls, Buckingham Palace. . . . tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

It’s interesting how we tend to put BIG things on a bucket list.

But what about those things that mean so much more, that may actually be bigger than skydiving or a grand final experience or the Taj Mahal? What about resolving that conflict with a loved one, so that when they die you are not haunted with “I should have”, or “Why didn’t I……”. I see so many fractured relationships in families, rifts that have been there for twenty plus years in some cases, varying degrees of separation for many long years, oftentimes unable to recall what created the chasm in the first place.

Oftentimes these things bubble up to our conscious awareness as Christmas approaches. What about “fixing” that relationship issue that’s been lingering for years and contributes to the vicious cycle of depression, loneliness and unhappiness? How about putting the seemingly small but big things on your personal bucket list to address right now? Consider making contact with that loved one or old friend today, whether it be a short note or card to just reconnect. I am sure you’ll get a bigger buzz than that bungee jump and a memory to last a lifetime (without the regret).

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….and some food for thought……

Residues of a painful past. . . .

I see a lot of people with low self-esteem. I know my own self-esteem didn’t get a great start as a young child. Whilst there were a lot of happy memories, I grew up in a home with more negativity than affirmation. I call this the reverse ratio. I believe that every child needs the magic number of 7:1 positive to negative but unfortunately for many children it’s the reverse. Oftentimes this happens because the parents themselves haven’t got a positive view of themselves. How can you pass something on that you don’t have yourself?

I often wondered why I found it hard to speak up in front of a large group of people, whether it be to ask a question or even provide an opinion. It dawned on me that my father’s mantra when we had visitors was “children should be seen and not heard”. I also wondered why I constantly sought to achieve, to do things first and be the best at what I did. It came to mind that it may have been due to the fact that I was not affirmed as a child. I have no recall of being told by my parents that they were proud of what I achieved. Sometimes what we don’t get can be equally as influential in moulding our behaviours.

9781626253933
available through New Harbinger Press https://www.newharbinger.com/search/site/self%20esteem

Our early experiences of socialisation come from what our parents teach us. They teach us what behaviour is acceptable, which are loveable, which are dangerous, which are morally wrong and which are annoying. We may be praised for appropriate behaviour and punished for wrong behaviour. Many of us experience more of the latter. Personality theorist Harry Stack Sullivan called these events “forbidding gestures“. For more on this see Matthew McKay & Patrick Fanning’s excellent workbook on Self-Esteem.

As McKay & Fanning go on to say “By design, forbidding gestures are frightening and rejecting. A child who is spanked or scolded feels the withdrawal of parental approval very acutely. He or she is, for a while a bad person. Either consciously or unconsciously, a child knows that his or her parents are the source of all physical and emotional nourishment. If he or she were to be rejected, cast out by the family, he or she would die. So parental approval is a matter of life or death to the child. The experience of being bad can be felt very deeply, because being bad carries with it the terrible risk of losing all support”.

We all grow up with emotional residues from the forbidding gestures. If they happen often they sink very deeply into our unconscious self, deeply affecting and wounding our core sense of who we are. Some call this the hurt and wounded child. The picture you have of yourself is the accumulation of all of the memories stored in your subconscious mind. Even though on a rational logical level, your conscious mind knows you’re a good and worthwhile human being, your subconscious mind is screaming at you all of those wounding experiences and memories from your childhood, that coalesce into the idea that somehow you are not good enough. Surviving then is all about striving, to be good enough.

self-esteem-diagram
http://staging.mind.org.uk/

It is no surprise that in my clinical practice I see a negative correlation between mood related disorders and a person’s sense of self. In other words, those with the most elevated depressed and anxious symptoms often also have very low self-esteem. For the most deeply wounded it can be a long journey to rebuild a stronger sense of self worth. As that builds, mood generally lifts. Good psychological support can sensitively guide someone through the process of healing the painful woundings. It takes time but it is worth the journey to a stronger, more confident and capable way of interacting with those that you love, and the world in general.

. . . . a Perspective on Perspective. . . .

I like things done my way and somehow I seem to believe I have the best ideas. Oftentimes I do. But I have (at times painfully) learned that my way is not always the right way. I was raised the way I was raised, and somehow what is familiar to any of us makes us think that’s just how it happens for everyone, and that’s how things should be. Until you learn differently.

I once had a client tell me that they grew up in an aggressive and conflictual household and then met a partner whose home climate was quite the opposite. They were stunned to know that’s not how everyone acts toward one another.

I live with a man who eats with his elbow on the table. It irritates the heck out of me because I was raised to keep my hands off the table, and elbows to your side. I am ridiculously pedantic and correct his grammatical errors. It irritates the heck out of him. I grew up with a crossword and a dictionary in hand doing the daily Advertiser (I’m a South Aussie) crossword, and valued correctness.

Who’s right and who’s wrong? Neither of us!

We live in a world of difference, a global community trying its best to get along. We see divisiveness between nations, within countries, in communities and families. There is no better example than the recent U.S. election that trumped even the experts in their predictions.

So how do we accept and tolerate such differences? We all have different perspectives based on the environment we were raised in and our accumulated life experiences, the belief and value system we’re exposed to, religious beliefs, our cultural background, social mores, level of education, intelligence in its many forms, and how we express that according to our individual temperament.

In my clinical practice, the biggest struggle I come across for the people I see, is that the vast majority only see one perspective, their own. They are so invested in their own viewpoint that they have blinkers on to the fact there just may be another way to look at things. My best tool that I direct them toward is a good old STOP sign.

I like to give my clients a brilliant STOPP card (see www.getselfhelp.com), which as an acronym effectively guides you through the process of literal thought stopping, observing and then looking for another perspective. Unless we do this we are at the mercy of our own perspective, and likely to keep perpetuating those patterns that may not be serving us well.

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www.getselfhelp.com

 

It’s not easy. Each time I feel that niggling irritation around arms on the table, I too need to STOP, and recognise that it’s no big deal. After all when we were in India we reluctantly ate with our hands. When we were in China, we drank from a bowl as large as a salad bowl, and discarded our food scraps onto the floor of the restaurant! My father would not be happy if I did that when I visited!

It’s all about perspective.

 

 

Are you a game person?

I LOVE to play games. In fact all of my family loves to play games. My eldest lawyer son likes to create complex strategy games which rival any of the best on the market. We even meet with our close friends on a weekly basis and play games! Having fun and being with family and friends is the essence of living life fully and in the moment.

Gaming is FUN, BUT IT’S A WHOLE LOT MORE!

I’m not talking about games on a device, but far more worthwhile games. I’m talking about board games. You may immediately think Scrabble, or Monopoly, or Trivial Pursuit which are ok, but I am constantly amazed that so many people have not come across the likes of Carcassonne (see below), Ticket To Ride, Settlers of Catan, Codenames, Dixit and Alhambra to name just a few that reside in our somewhat large games collection.

(Check any of the above games out online, or your local Games shop. Most cities or regional centres will have at least one.)

Carcassonne - a brilliant game for young and old.
Carcassonne, a brilliant game for young and old.

carcassonne-game

The benefits of playing board games are well-documented.

(see www.healthfitnessrevolution.com/top-10-health-benefits-board-games/).

These include: having fun and feeling good (a natural endorphin rush), family time, memory formation and cognitive skills, reduces risks for mental illness, lowers blood pressure, speeds up your responses, reduces stress, and grows your immune system. For children also, board games can play an important role in their health and brain development, developing logic and reasoning skills, improving critical thinking, verbal and communication skills, along with growing attentional skills and the ability to stay focused for longer periods of time. Therapeutically, board games can help with fine motor skills development, which is not just important for children, but also for those with mental and physical disabilities, the elderly and those who may be recovering from accidents.

From an ageing perspective, games help to keep the mind active and possibly ward off those nasty degenerative diseases. My parents, who are well into their 80’s love Qwirkle and Sequence in particular. For those of us with a strong competitive spirit, games amongst family and friends are a great way to learn emotional control, to have your little “tanty” and blow off steam in a safe environment. Likewise for children who sometimes have a struggle managing frustration and dealing with the concept of losing, you can help them to balance this out with the idea that a game can be pleasurable and fun.

I am at that privileged time in my life of having grandchildren, and having a bit more of that precious commodity called TIME to spend with them. We do love to play board games with the kids. What any child wants and needs is not just time together, but they want us to play with them, share the joy in doing something together, and to listen to them. Whilst immersing them in a rich learning experience, there is no better way to boost a child’s self-esteem, along with their social and emotional development.

In our world of “busyness”, how refreshing to stop and do something together as a family or with friends. Think about the above benefits as you turn off the television, Netflix, X-box, computer games or whatever may be eating up yours and your family’s time. Even consider creating a regular games evening fortnightly or monthly, a tradition that may then be passed on to the next generation.

Game on!

(Others may have suggestions, but the easier starter games are the likes of Sequence, Qwirkle, Ticket to Ride, Dixit, and Codenames. Go to YouTube as a quick way to learn the rules if you don’t have someone to teach you.)

Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride, for 2+ players
CodeNames for 2+ but best with 4 people.
Dixit
Dixit – best with 3+ people
qwirkle_board_game
Qwirkle, also available in Qwirkle Cubes, for 2+ players
sequence
Sequence, for 2+ players
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Ticket to Ride – Europe map. Different countries also available. I love team Asia.

 

Aware that you’re not aware?

Unconscious Incompetence

Conscious Incompetence

Conscious Competence

Unconscious Competence

 I came across this sequence of words some years ago, and they so completely explain human behaviour. One rule of behaviour that I have long remembered from a wonderful audio by Dr J. Mitchell Perry is that WE PERPETUATE THE FAMILIAR. That is, we keep doing the same thing because we do it unconsciously, whether it actually serves us well or not. I think he cites something like complaining….if we complain a lot we become very good at it, even criticising or finding fault with people, such that we continue to do it because it is very familiar, and then you become an expert criticiser or complainer (whether you realise it or not). You condition your brain if you like to see everything that is wrong (versus what is actually going right). Notice the same principle applies when you buy a new red car e.g. you suddenly see all the red cars driving around.

So how does this apply to these eight words?

 I believe that many of us don’t recognise our own incompetence (i.e. UNCONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE). We continue to generate unconscious patterns in the way we think, how we communicate, in our relationships, in our daily habits. And then we wonder why we might feel anxious, stressed, or depressed, face conflictual situations, have failed relationships, or struggle with addictive behaviours (whether food, gambling, pornography, drugs etc etc).

I tend to see a lot of people at this point, whereby they know things aren’t working well for them, but can’t figure out exactly what it is they are doing wrong. Or they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong at all; it’s just everyone else that’s treating them badly. This is where therapy is incredibly helpful. It helps to bring to conscious awareness any of the patterns that may not be serving you well, that is, you become CONSCIOUS of your INCOMPETENCE.

Once you become conscious or aware of something, you can then work at changing it. As you do, you become aware i.e. CONSCIOUS of your own COMPETENCE, or ability to do something that has a positive effect on your life.

Then as neurons begin to fire and wire together, BINGO…… you start to create new patterns that sink very deeply into your unconscious as you do things differently, so much better, such that you are then UNCONSCIOUSLY COMPETENT. What a brilliant turn-around.

The caveat however, is that this takes some work. Changing habits is not easy. We know from neuroscience that the brain has the amazing ability to rewire itself (read Norman Doidge’s book “The Brain that changes itself”), and this is where I love to help people. Recognise the patterns that are not working, whether it’s in the way you think, how you communicate, or the daily behavioural habits that may be creating stress in your life. And then work on changing them.

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REMEMBER: Tiny tweaks lead to BIG CHANGES!