The Medicine Of Sleep

in 1959, Peter Tripp, a popular New York radio presenter, embarked upon a charity Wakeathon challenge, during which he stayed awake for 8 consecutive days. Tripp had a team of doctors and psychologists on board who monitored and assisted him during the challenge. After only two nights without sleep the team noticed significant changes in Tripp's behaviour. His usually cheerful personality became more aggressive and angry. His condition deteriorated day after day and by the fifth day, and for the remained of the Wakeathon, Tripp was suffering with full on hallucinations. While this study obviously demonstrates a very extreme case of sleep deprivation, it also shows that a relatively brief per

Anxious? Have A Little Faith

At its most basic level, anxiety is fear. It is fear of the unknown. More specifically, fear that the unknown will be something terrible. Now if anxiety is fear of the awful unknown, then what might constitute the opposite of that? In my opinion, it is faith. Faith allows us to feel safe in spite of the unknown. Faith gives us breathing room to consider the possibility that the unknown will be okay. Faith gives us courage and allows us to move forward. What springs to mind when you think about faith? Usually, we think first of religion and faith in God. For those who believe in God, this can be a wonderful faith to have. The belief that there is a sentient power watching over the universe an

The Awesome Healing Power Of Meditation....And Science Agrees

The practice of Meditation has been around for over 3000 years. Meditation has always been strongly linked with religion, mostly Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern religions, as well as Judaism and early Christianity. Perhaps because of its religious associations, it has been largely misunderstood as a practice. While Meditation is certainly an integral part of certain religions, it is not a religious practice. It is not something that is only relevant to those of a spiritual bent or those interested in alternative health practices. Nor as some believe, does it require the dedication of long periods of time, or specific, ‘peaceful’ locations in which to be practiced. As a practical tool,

Immediate Pleasure, Long Term Pain: Delayed Pleasure, Long Term Gain

We live in a world of instant gratification; fast food, online shopping, information at the touch of a button, easily available alcohol and cigarettes, credit cards (buy now what you can’t really afford) etc. It’s probably more difficult in the world as it is now, than at any other time, to delay gratification and hold on to long term goals. It is human nature to go for instant gratification over delayed gratification much of the time, and with the ease of finding instant gratification in the Western world today, the discipline require for delayed gratification is hard to achieve. What do I mean when I talk about instant gratification? Here are some examples : Reaching for the chocolate cake

Healthy Boundaries, Healthy Relationships

What comes to mind when you think of having boundaries? When personal boundaries are discussed in the public arena, the focus is often on sexual boundaries and issues of consent, or the concern is the welfare of our children by teaching them safe boundaries when dealing with strangers. However, we are less often concerned with the frequent, less ‘visible’ boundary transgressions we are guilty of in our everyday lives, either as a result of ignoring our own boundaries or by overstepping someone else’s. While the boundaries discussed above are extremely important in terms of immediate safety, and it is only right that they are to the fore, the smaller, yet frequent boundary transgressions that

Mindfulness. Here. And Now.

Yesterday I spoke about thought 'monsters' or negative thoughts and how they can dominate our thinking, especially if we overly engage with them and become absorbed in them. I mentioned the idea of thought 'defusion' or the process of becoming less engaged with our negative inner voice; allowing it to be there while at the same time focusing most of our attention on other things. I realise that this is much easier said than done, but there is one practice that can be a huge help in achieving greater detachment from our negative thought track, that is the practice of Mindfulness. Mindfulness has been a big buzz word over the past number of years. Most people have a vague notion of what it is

Coping With Those Thought 'Monsters'

When my daughter was 4 she went through a phase of being afraid of the dark. She thought there might be monsters in her room and she hated if her wardrobe door was left even slightly open. I bought a children’s fiction book to help her with her fears. The book was called “There’s a Monster in my Closet” by Mercer Meyer. In the book, a small boy is visited by a monster every night. At first the boy is very afraid and he hides under the covers. Some nights later, he becomes angry and starts trying to fight the monster. But the monster always comes back. Eventually the boy stops being either scared or angry. He realises that the monster is going to be there no matter what. Finally, he decides t

More Than Just A Gut Feeling (You Need to Know This)

In a previous post I mentioned the importance of physical health for mental wellbeing. However, the link between the two is much deeper and stronger than you may have ever realised. Specifically I am referring to the link between the gut and the brain. Scientists have proven that there is a direct, back and forth line of communication and activity between these two parts of the body, which means that what goes on in one affects the other and vice versa. The gut has long been referred to as the second brain, a description that is proving more and more apt the further science delves into this connection. Interest in the gut- brain connection has increased over the last number of years with pro

What Is Your Life Lens?

Its interesting that despite living in the same country, same town, even in the same family, we all see life differently and we all experience the world in our own unique way. Why is this? Well our beliefs and expectations of life play a huge part in how we see the world and the people in it. This is what I mean when I talk about our life 'lens'. We each have our own lens through which we interpret the people and the events that happen in our lives, and the shape of this lens is made up of our beliefs and expectations. The really interesting bit is, our expectations in life can themselves shape the events and interactions that we have with others, in such a way that then goes on to further j

Building Strong Foundations

If there is one self help book I would unreservedly recommend for the general reader, it is Susan Jeffers’ “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway” *. It’s short, it’s practical and it really challenges you to think in new ways about how you approach change. When I read it, it certainly had a lasting impact. One section of the book resonated with me in particular and that was the part about building healthy life foundations. If you imagine a house perched on stilts; Imagine the house is resting on only two stilts place close together near the centre of its base. How safe do you think that house would be in a bad storm? Not terribly safe I would imagine, I certainly wouldn’t want to be inside! Now i

Do You Need To Stretch? (And No, I Don’t Mean Exercise!)

I first encountered the concept of ‘stretching’ when listening to a recording (in the days before podcasts) by John Powell, an American motivational speaker. Powell discussed ‘stretching’ in the context of making life changes i.e. he suggested that, regularly in life, we need to stretch or challenge ourselves to do new things or to change our routines. The reason being that personal growth and development cannot occur otherwise. An important factor in ‘stretching’ is the inherent discomfort that goes with it e.g. Depending on which hand you write with, have you ever experimented with writing with the other hand? It tends to feel awkward and quite uncomfortable and sometimes just plain wrong

Running On Empty

Imagine driving your car every single day, maybe a few times a day, and never pulling in to a petrol station to refuel. What do you think would happen? Eventually the car would become sluggish and slow. Soon it would stop running altogether. Fortunately with roadside assistance etc we can now sort out car troubles pretty quickly; we could call for a recovery truck and have the car fixed up pretty quick. However, if we continued to do this repeatedly over time it could lead to lasting damage to the vehicle, especially if we were neglecting other things, like oil, water and tyres. Its pretty easy to see how neglecting a car could lead to serious damage. The same can be said for ourselves, but

Do You Know How To Find A Qualified Therapist?

Do you know how to find a properly qualified therapist in Ireland? If you wish to visit a counsellor or psychotherapist it is important that they are properly trained and qualified to help you. There are a number of organisations in Ireland that help to regulate the industry. Make sure your therapist is a member of an accrediting body. I am a fully accredited member of IACP (The Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy www.iacp.ie). Another accredited body is IAHIP (The Irish Association of Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy, iahip.org). For counselling psychologists the accrediting body is PSI (Psychological Society of Ireland, www.psihq.ie). On their websites they provide

What Is Love?

How would you describe love? Most people talk about love as a feeling; a strong, positive emotion directed at another person. However it can be more constructive to consider love as a verb or action word. Then love is defined by our actions towards the people we love. This helps us take more responsibility for our behaviours towards the people we are close to. It becomes more difficult to blame, criticise, shout at or shame our loved ones if love is seen in terms of our actions. Get in the habit of asking yourself "Is this behaviour loving?" Seeing love in this way can help us to improve our close relationships.

Achieving and Maintaining Mental Health

There has been much hype around mental health awareness in the last few years. Ads on tv, posters and organisations posting about the importance of mental health. This is an extremely welcome and important shift away from the stigma and taboo of mental illness. But what are the practical things that we can do to achieve and maintain mental health? What areas of life need our attention? Physical health- the link between mental and physical health cannot be overstated. It is difficult, to say the least, to achieve a healthy mental state if the body is not healthy. Some health professionals go as far as to say that all health begins in the gut (Dr. Nigma Talib, Dr. Josh Axe, Natasha Campbell Mc

Becoming Ourselves

The other day I mentioned the 'stuff' that we acquire through life that distances us from our real selves. But what is this stuff and how do we acquire it? As soon as we are born we are influenced by the values, beliefs and expectations of our families and society. These shape who we become and they are an important part of how we become functioning members of society. However, sometimes what we pick up is not so helpful or does not sit well with our natural characters or simply is not very effective in our lives. For example we may have acquired false beliefs that inhibit us in life, such as that we are not good enough or that we are not capable of certain things. Or we may have picked up

Discovering Your True Self

There is a misconception that counselling is about changing yourself and adding new things that are going to 'fix' you. Counselling is more about stripping away all the stuff you've acquired over the years, such as false beliefs and unhelpful behaviours, that have buried your true self and brought you further away from who you really are. Counselling can be about change but more than anything the changes are about helping you get back to who you truly are.

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