Saturday, 14 April 2018

Wellbeing Project 9 - Change language to change thinking

Think Yourself Better

Do you find yourself deteriorating into negative thinking or using negative words in your speech the minute you get stressed, feel challenged or something doesn’t go your way? And do you find that the situation then gets worse? You end up feeling depressed or you end up in argument or walking away? And then you go into a further negative thought spiral because you’re disappointed in your ability to handle the situation?

They say it’s easy to think and therefore speak positively when everything is going well, the challenge is to think positively when facing adversity, let alone repeated adversity. It is our mindset, our beliefs, our words that determine how we perceive the problem and our ability to overcome the problem. We can never change what someone else does or the event itself, we can only change our own reaction to their behaviour or the event. 

If we are predisposed to be negative, we need to consciously change the words we use in our thoughts to change our beliefs, our feelings, our energy so we can be the best version of us. How can you make small changes to start changing your thinking and in turn what you believe? 

In the first place, pay attention to your inner voice. How do you talk to yourself? Is the vocabulary you use supportive and encouraging? Or do you blame, accuse or limit yourself? Whatever words or phrases you repeat daily, your brain will eventually believe to be true because it becomes a habit through repeated wiring. So if you continually have angry thoughts, depressing thoughts or dismissive thoughts, you are reinforcing that thought pattern and it becomes a way or life.

You can start to undo it by becoming aware of those thoughts, challenging them and choosing to use different words - affirming, optimistic and respectful words. When you find yourself saying to yourself “I can’t do this,” you can listen to that inner voice or you can take a fly-on-the wall perspective and coach yourself into an alternative belief where you can say “I can do this” or even better “I’ve got this.” Be definitively positive and think as if you are already doing it. 

Don’t tell yourself ‘not to be ridiculous’ in that moment as that’s putting yourself down, find a phrase that you would use for your best friend, maybe ‘Come on, remember to focus on what you want’. Avoid the ‘always’ and ‘never’ thinking trap as that statistically cannot be true and will just undermine you. Find the evidence of what you have done in the past that has worked in similar situations.  

What about the moments, when you find yourself saying ‘but’ to the advice that others are giving you or we are giving ourselves? Yes, sometimes our friends really haven’t understood the problem from our perspective and we need to just acknowledge they are only trying to be helpful and say ‘thank you’. Saying ‘but’ just sends us into a negative thought spiral to a place where we feel powerless, or gets us into an unnecessary argument. Remember the impact when someone says ‘but’ to our idea - we feel deflated or if they do it repeatedly we end up feeling like giving up helping them. What would happen if you removed it from the sentence and replaced it with ‘and’?

And you can look out for these linguistic patterns in your interactions with others. Respond less quickly to the situation, take a moment to breathe and think about the words you could use to change the situation. Use constructive words, to influence their thinking positively. Don’t press their buttons by using ‘always’ or ‘never’ when they’ve done something you’re not happy with. And avoid ‘but’.

Change your language and change your thinking. Change your language and change their thinking. 

Rewire your brain with positive words and think yourself into being the best version of you. 

You’ve got this!

Friday, 16 March 2018

Wellbeing Project 8 - Sleep yourself to good health

Not enough sleep will leave you sleepwalking through life.

For years I went without sleep except at the weekends, working late into the night or into the small hours or even working until it was time to get up and therefore going without any sleep at all. My priority was getting my tasks done for the next day. 

Just over a year ago I started researching how to help Year 11s manage stress and I was shocked at just how important sleep was to managing our wellbeing. Not only is lack of sleep associated with heart disease, depression, Type 2 diabetes and IBS, none of which I had thankfully and I definitely don’t want, but it is also associated with stress, weight gain and obesity (I was overweight) and dementia (my number 1 feared illness over and above cancer) and even higher death rates, especially in women! 

I know from studying NLP that the mind makes memories when we sleep so it shouldn’t have surprised me at the link to dementia. According to a study published at Berkley, it is missing deep non-REM sleep that produces beta-amyloid proteins that are the catalyst for Alzheimers and they aggregate in higher concentrations with poor sleep, and worse, it’s cyclical as they in turn hamper sleep. 

A good night’s sleep is associated with better problem solving, memory recall, performance, productivity and concentration, all things that I prize. So how did I not notice the impact of lack of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 90% of people report being good at tasks when they sleep well as opposed to 46% when they don’t sleep well. Research has shown that lack of sleep increases mistakes. In fact it’s like being drunk: just 17 hours of deprivation is the equivalent of 0.05% alcohol in our blood stream. Think of the effect on driving! The US estimates 100,000 crashes a year are due to sleep deprivation yet would we dare call into work and say I can’t come in today I’m too tired to drive there?

And then I discovered the link with stress. Stress produces cortisol, cortisol interrupts sleep, and lack of sleep produces cortisol. A vicious cycle. In addition, cortisol causes weight gain, impaired brain function and it impairs the immune system. 

Now I could see just how important sleep is, and that I should prioritise it to perform at my best and be healthy, how much sleep do I actually need? From my research, the amount of sleep we need varies between individuals and can be genetically affected. However as a general rule, it appears adults need 7-9 hours, teenagers 8-10 hours and school aged children 9-11 hours. 

Time to change my sleep habits

I had to seriously realign my life to achieve this and I have used NLP to help me change my mindset and my habits. Through coaching, I have worked out that I am task driven and hence I would always be thinking, ‘I’ll just do this,’ ‘I’ll just do that’ and that’s why before I know it, it’s silly o’clock. Using Swish, I changed that thought pattern to, ‘No, it’s time to stop now’ which has helped me to go to bed earlier. I also used my relaxation anchor to induce a relaxed state once I was in bed to get to sleep and I changed my work patterns to reduce my stress levels.

Top tips that help sleep

  1. Getting rid of blue light a good hour before you sleep - no more phone or computer. Blue light inhibits the production of melatonin the chemical that tells our brain that it’s time to sleep. I went back to that old habit of reading before I go to sleep but I can’t stay awake long enough.
  2. Herbal teas - I use chamomile when I put aside the phone. Valerian root, lavender, lemon balm, passion flower, magnolia bark are also believed to help and there is always Sleepytime. Lavender oil on your pillow is also supposed to help.
  3. A bedtime snack - a handful of almonds, a kiwi fruit washed down with cherry juice. Almonds have melatonin that promotes sleep and improves sleep quality, a kiwi fruit, has serotonin to regulate sleep as well as antioxidants, and cherry juice has yet more more melatonin and antioxidants.
  4. A warm bath - to raise your temperature a degree or two and then the cool down relaxes you and promotes deeper sleep. Some people recommend soaking in Epsom salts as the magnesium apparently soaks into your skin and helps sleep. 
  5. Yoga moves or stretches - not full on exercise as that wakes you up, but gentle stretches with a focus on breathing. Although regular exercise is excellent for aiding sleep when done earlier in the day.
  6. A to-do list - it not only gets it out of my head but I can pick it up in the morning to start my day well.
  7. Gratitude - rewires the brain to focus on the positives by remembering good bits of the day, which in turn relaxes us.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Wellbeing Project 7 - No more stress

Success not Stress

Last weekend I found out just how far I had come on my journey of wellbeing and managing stress. Driving to deliver a training session, I realised I had forgotten my USB. 

Surprisingly calm, I called home to ask them to get it out of my trouser pocket from the previous day's outfit and email me the powerpoint I needed for day 3, only to be told it wasn't there. In the past I would have had a meltdown at this point, but instead I assumed I must have left it at the venue the previous day and drove on. When I arrived at the venue I couldn't find it either. Still no meltdown. Instead, I was able to focus on solving the problem of delivering the training rather than obsessing with the lost USB and becoming stressed. 

I couldn't find the USB that night or the next day either. Calmly and logically I looked everywhere and asked everyone who could have seen it. In the past, my self-talk in reaction to something going wrong would have been to call myself every name under the sun -  'idiot', 'loser' being two of the kinder ones. I would also have got into the blame game: it was everyone else's fault and having a go at them. It's not that I didn't consider that someone else had moved it, it's just that I didn't go into a negative mental tirade. 

I even managed not to have a complete hissy fit when I was asked 'haven't you backed it up?' - an unhelpful question that felt loaded with accusation. Backing up my USB was always on my important to-do list but never made it to important and urgent ...

I have been reflecting on how I managed to get to this place in the few weeks since my last blog on managing stress. The key difference was that I didn't seem to have to 'manage' the stress in this situation. It seems to me that everything I have been doing for the past six months to improve my wellbeing has finally come together. In addition, I wonder about the anchor I collapsed two weeks earlier and what effect it had on my reaction that weekend.

The joy of attending and running courses is that everyone gets to try all the techniques, and I got a client to practise the Collapsing an Anchor process on me. I wanted my anchor to slow drivers collapsed as I had spent years commuting 100 miles a day getting annoyed at drivers holding me up by doing 30 in a 60 speed limit in country lanes. For the last two weeks I had discovered the freedom of being free of that anger and free to drive more strategically or just to sing while I wait. 

What I have learned about NLP is that it has knock-on effects: when we change one thing in our life, it impacts on other areas. Perhaps collapsing that anchor was the final key to unlocking a stress-free approach to living, to being solutions-focussed when dealing with pressure.

I really don't want to lose my USB again to find out though!

Friday, 9 February 2018

Wellbeing Project 6 - Managing Stress

Look after your light so you can burn bright

Being stressed causes us to release cortisol that has been described as ‘public health enemy number one’. While some stress can be good for motivating us, chronic stress is associated with inhibiting learning and memory, lowering immune function, weight gain, increase in blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart disease, as well as depression and mental illness. 

After realising I had been suffering from burn out, I had been focussing on work-life balance and nurturing my wellbeing for months. It was therefore caught off guard when I found myself feeling stressed recently.  

Without realising it, I had got back into old habits and it brought back old experiences that I thought I had let go. What I learned is that we always have to be mindful. It turns out I still struggle to deal with pressure (in this case a huge to-do list) when I don’t follow my morning routine and I don’t get enough sleep.

I’ve posted before about the peripheral vision technique I use to create focus and concentration and get into a peak state, When I don’t do it I end up starting lots of tasks as I’m distracted by the next task that pops into my head - especially if I’m on the computer and the social media alerts and emails are popping up. 

This morning it led me to create a stressful situation for myself. I was feeling overwhelmed by a to-do list that would take all week and I got into an old thought pattern of worrying that I don’t have enough time. And then the unhelpful self-talk started.

Stress is our reaction to pressure. Pressure is created by outside influence and demands, but it is what goes on in our head that creates the stress. We create an internal narrative about an event in the future, an event that hasn’t happened and is therefore not real. And if it’s not real we can change it.

I put into practice some of the techniques we teach for managing our resilience:

  • I remembered to breathe. Just the act of focussing on our breathing brings us back to now and away from the imagined event. I sat down and did that for about 3 minutes.
  • It allowed me to acknowledge the feeling of stress. Accepting that feeling meant I was listening to my body, I could let it go and I could change something. 
  • I changed my negative self talk to how I would speak to my best friend in that situation, kind words and tone with compassion and helpful advice.
  • I reframed my sentences taking out the must/should words that create negativity and a sense of loss of control and instead I focussed on the choices I had.
  • I asked myself what was the worst thing that could happen.
  • I asked myself what was the mostly likely outcome in the situation.
  • I asked myself what was the most important task on my list so that I could prioritise by urgency and importance.

And I told myself that there is time. And that became my mantra for the day. I got to where I needed to go without the drama, with hard work and focus, compassion and being my own inner cheerleader.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Wellbeing Project 5 - change your mindset and lose weight

Willpower is a piece of cake

Losing weight is a complex issue. Like so many people, I have done fad diets all my life. They used to be just to drop 10 pounds at the most, however, when I met my partner I chunked on the weight. It was only when I got him to do the diet with me and picked a programme that he liked that I started to turn it around. The weight has come off slowly (which is a good thing).

In May I used an NLP technique called 'Swish' to change my thought pattern around cakes. I used to work in an office of 'feeders' who brought in these amazing cakes and they would very kindly leave them right by the coffee supplies. Banana cake, chocolate cake, Victoria sponge - an unending array of amazing cakes. However, the problem was I was often tired and every time I went to make a cup of coffee as a pick-me-up I would look at the cake and think 'that will make me feel better'. In reality, I might have got a quick sugar high, but that was followed by an energy low and over time I was starting to put back on the weight I had lost.

So I changed that thought to 'maybe later'. What happened? I never ended up going back for the piece of cake because I wasn't actually hungry and I dropped 7 pounds over a couple of months. In the long term, I've lost interest in cake. In fact I was caught describing them as 'pretty' when I went into a coffee shop recently. Pretty? Really?

What happened was I wasn't fighting with my willpower anymore. Unlike my partner who fights against his desire for sweet things constantly. He asked me this morning to guinea pig all the NLP techniques we have to help change his relationship with food. In honour of National Obesity Week, we are starting tomorrow with a coaching session to determine the underlying problems facing him when it comes to food so that we can work out how to change his mindset. Check out our updates on Facebook.

The diet and fitness industries are multi-million dollar businesses and statistically people will give up on their new year resolution by the end of January or beginning of February. Essentially because they have not addressed their mindset.

If you would like 2018 to be different, we'd like to help. First, download our self-coaching activity from the last blog to make sure you have written your goal in a compelling way that will help you achieve it.

Then think about how you would like to change your relationship with food. Is there something you crave constantly that you wish you didn't? Do you have an eating habit that you'd like to change? Do you see food as a reward? Let us know what you'd like to change and we'll tell you how NLP can help.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Wellbeing Project 4 - goal setting

Small changes, big benefits for 2018

I don’t set much store in new year resolutions - generally they’re about as meaningful as the targets you choose for your performance management at work - what you think you should do and pleasing others. But I do always set myself goals and evaluate where I’m at as I go through the year. 

I usually have a big goal, but I’ve also learned that it’s the small changes that matter so this year I have chosen some small behaviours to change in addition to bigger goals, a continuation of my wellbeing journey I started in September. 

I have five goals that should improve my productivity and therefore efficiency and therefore happiness. I will write them all as well-formed outcomes after doing a self-coaching activity to make sure they happen.
  1. Apply mindful practice to my everyday life - course booked to understand more clearly the benefits in addition to using NLP. It also feeds into my love of learning.
  1. Write a clear business plan - business coaching session booked. You might ask yourself why I would go to a coach if I am a coach. Quite simply, coaches ask you the difficult questions, challenge your thinking and make you dig deep.
  1. Fix my evening routine - I’ve worked out that when I struggle to do my morning routine, it’s when I haven’t got to bed ‘on time’. I’ve been trying to have a decent night’s sleep as research has shown how important sleep is to our wellbeing, but I can’t seem to break my night owl habits. My self talk is ‘I’ll just finish this, oh and I might as well do that’ and before I know it, it’s after midnight. 
  1. Drink water at regular intervals during the day. I have developed a bad habit over many years of teaching of hardly drinking from when I get up in the morning to when I sit down for dinner at night. The brain needs water to function so this is not a very clever approach. I’ve found an app - Absorb Water - that I’m looking at as it looks at your total water intake including through fruit etc.
  1. And finally walking - just 10 minutes a day to nurture my fitness and concentration. I love walking so how difficult can it be to add 10 minutes or so into my daily routine? Well, it’s been on my to-do list forever so what’s the problem? I know I think, ‘I’ll just do this first’, or ‘this task is more important.’ (Have you noticed a pattern here?) So I could simply change my self-talk through Swish technique.
These are all important changes to me. Not changes for anyone else. I know the last three are small changes but I will still struggle and will use NLP techniques to help me change these old behaviours to ones that are more helpful for me now. Techniques like be your own guru and the new behaviour generator.

What small changes would you like to make to 
reap big benefits this year?

Monday, 11 December 2017

The Wellbeing Project 3 - being kind to yourself

Take Time to Be Kind

Acts of kindness have been shown to boost our happiness and therefore to improve our wellbeing. Given it’s the time of goodwill, we should all be very happy in December. 

Last week started with a tweet of Action for Happiness’s Kindness Calendar - a suggestion for each day in December, eg a kind note, donation to a charity helping the homeless, counting how many people you smile at in a day. Fabulous idea and we retweeted it as well as putting the ideas into practice.

At my Mindful Mondays session, I was reminded that we can sometimes be so busy giving to others that we end up making ourselves stressed rather than happy. Why is that? Often because we forget to be kind to ourselves. 

In NLP we have strategies to be kind to ourselves: 

  • we build anchors that we can use to give ourselves positive emotions whenever we need them, 
  • we learn to reframe how we view events to see them in ways that are more compassionate to ourselves, and 
  • we learn to change our negative self-talk - to turn the voice down, change the voice to one that might make us laugh or relax more. 

I changed the voice of my self-talk some while ago from a nagging voice to one that is kinder, yet urgent and practical. This works for me because my negative self talk is triggered by stress. In a timely reminder, I caught myself saying unkind things to myself when I let my stress levels build up and then something went wrong. Perhaps you can relate to those blaming and unhelpful comments that actually if you put yourself on the outside of your head are hurtful because you would never say them to someone else. 

I was able to quickly soften the voice, reframe the comments to ones that were more supportive by focussing on what I could do now - what I actually wanted to happen - rather than focussing on what had gone wrong. And remind myself of what I had got right. 

So be kind to yourself this Christmas. Listen to Anna's advice to prepare for the emotional challenges of Christmas. Just remember we are all doing the best we can with the resources we have available. 

Wellbeing Project 9 - Change language to change thinking

Think Yourself Better Do you find yourself deteriorating into negative thinking or using negative words in your speech the minute you...