Empathy

Do Good, Feel Good

Giving back to the world around you can make you feel better in yourself. It also has added health benefits like lower blood pressure and a longer life. When you aren’t feeling happy in yourself it can be difficult to be motivated to do something for others. Why not do something that you enjoy with the added bonus of helping?

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Foster an animal – If you love animals but maybe don’t feel ready for the commitment of a full time pet, try fostering. Here in Dublin the SPCA is always looking for foster parents for their animals. You get to see what it’s like to have a pet, without feeling obligated to keep it forever.

Volunteer at a charity shop – If you have some spare time or have been out of work and want to ease yourself back into that life, this is a great start. Usually the hours are relatively short and you will also be helping a great cause.

Run for charity – There are tons of fun runs all over the world that need money raised. If you already like to run you are doing something you love while also contributing to the greater good.

Turn hobbies into fundraisers – Maybe you love to bake or have a knack for making decorations. You could set up a table one day and decide that all money raised goes to help a cause you are passionate about.

There are so many benefits to giving and it’s something that is incredibly easy to do. Especially once you realise you don’t even have to go out of your way to do it.

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank

Interested in starting psychotherapy?

As a therapist I have the incredible honour of being able to get a glimpse into the lives of others. Usually during the first session clients are nervous, unsure of what to expect. Over time as they open up we are able to build trust and establish a relationship. At its core, this is what therapy is all about. Having a non-judgemental, empathetic listener is incredibly healing.

I often get asked about therapy and counselling wondering about the process. I thought it may be helpful to explain some things. If after reading this you have any additional questions feel free to leave comment or message me.

What’s the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?  The main difference is length of time. Often people start counselling because they have recently been bereaved, they are depressed, feeling anxious or have one issue they want to work through. Psychotherapy is more long term, perhaps after you have started working through one thing you realise there are more aspects of your life you want to understand.

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How long are sessions and how much does it cost? Sessions are usually 50 minutes and here in Ireland if you want to go private, on average a session will cost €60. However, there are many centres that offer low cost services or individuals like myself that offer a sliding scale.

Do I have to talk about my past? I believe to understand the present we need to understand the past. However, you don’t have to share anything that you are not comfortable with. The entirety of your life and past hurts has lead to the perception you have of the world. In some cases that perception is negative or unfairly judgemental of ourself and others. Therapy and objectively examining our past can help demonstrate when patterns began and allow you to have compassion for your struggles.

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What will be different? You. What is so interesting about therapy is that as time goes on you will start to feel different in yourself. Hopefully the end result is that you will feel more grounded, confident and secure in who you are. You may also notice a difference in your reactions and interactions with friends and family. As you feel better in yourself you have less of a reason to lash out which can benefit everyone.

Should I start therapy? I believe everyone could benefit from having a good listener in their lives. If you feel like there are aspects of your life that you want to change counselling or therapy could be great for you. We can get into patterns that are no longer benefitting us, sometimes we need support to change.

I have seen the amazing transformations that can happen thanks to psychotherapy. You can be happy in your life, you just have to decide you want things to be different and start making that happen.

“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.” – Shannon L. Alder

Grief

At some point in our lives we will experience the loss of a loved one. Through my interactions with clients, friends and family I have seen how grief can change over time. I also know about the changing of grief from my own experience, today I am going to break therapist protocol and share some of my own story.

Ten years ago my father died and the world I was familiar with came crashing down around me. Suddenly and without warning everything I knew changed forever.

The days that followed his death were incredibly surreal. I had never allowed myself to imagine this scenario before; the thought was too much to bear. Therefore it did not seem real when I was met with the reality of never seeing him again. It seemed like a cosmic joke with a punchline I didn’t get. When we lose someone I believe our head and heart work at different speeds. Your brain can understand the concept that someone has died but the heart can take much longer to catch up.  Especially when you still feel them and see them everywhere you look.

When someone we love dies there is the initial shock. Even if we think we are prepared for the death, the moment it happens we can feel that we aren’t equipped. The shock can last for weeks, months or years. If we do not give time and space for grief, it can be difficult for it to leave us. It may take at least two years to grieve the loss of someone close to us. Two years where you give yourself time to reflect and time to mourn. There are very few people who I have met who gave themselves that sort of timeline. Often by the first anniversary there is an internal consensus that you should be able to move on. Which is incredibly unfair, especially if you look at how profoundly the person you lost touched your life.

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After my father died, someone shared with me that they had lost their father twenty years prior and still missed him everyday. In that moment, I hated those words. The thought that I would have to feel as I did then, for what sounded like forever, knocked the wind out of me. Only with the passing of time could I gain an understanding of what they meant. And they were right; I miss him everyday. But it’s different than in those first few weeks and months. In the early days it felt like the grief and heart-break was going to swallow me whole. However, over time that changed and it doesn’t hurt like it used too. Now if I feel that dull ache in my chest, it demonstrates what a huge place I had in my heart for him and him for me.

When someone we love dies it can end up changing the course of our entire lives. I know that I would not be where I am, or who I am had I not experienced such an earth shattering loss. It has defined me in a way that I did not let in for a long time, acceptance was not easy. But acceptance is a better feeling than bitterness which could have grown within me.

If you find yourself grieving at the moment please remember that it is okay to be sad, angry, disappointed and every range of emotions you can muster. You are starting to live in a world that feels new and scary without that person you loved so dearly. Get support if you need it, like all things that happen to us in life you don’t have to go through it alone.

“No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” – Walt Disney

Give

Practice giving. Minimise judging.

I often worry that the spare change I give to panhandlers will be used for drugs or alcohol. Although that is my own judgement I prefer to know that what I am giving will help the individual. More often then not I’ll give food and the person is always grateful.

If you are like myself but are feeling more generous, why not make packs to be given out to the homeless in your area? Depending on your location and the time of year you can change the contents. Here in Ireland I would throw in a rain ponchos maybe in a colder climate a pair of gloves or mittens would be appreciated.

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That warm and fuzzy feeling will give your mood a boost, even if you are feeling low. The world needs more random acts of kindness, here in Ireland there’s a festival on the weekend of July 19th. For those of you on the rest of the planet take a look at this site for some great ideas and how to get involved.

“A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.” – Gautama Buddha

Weight, what?

The Summer months are fast approaching and even if it weren’t for the change of weather I would know. How? Well the push to make people feel bad about their bodies of course. Cosmopolitan has an entire section of their website dedicate entirely to how to be ‘bikini ready’. It seems to me that a bathing suit ready body is more a state of mind rather than a size but I imagine that doesn’t sell as well.

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I was recently reading a great article from Cracked.com where a woman shared her experience of being in a weight loss commercial. I have seen how before and after pics can be doctored, I know about the camera tricks. However it is amazing when you see some of these transformations and hear the ‘testimonials’. She explains how the individuals involved are never on the same program and how they blatantly lie to tug at insecurities many of us face. I recommend a read as it is eye-opening and a little terrifying

No carbs, no sugar, sleep 8 hours a night, drink 8 glasses of water, exercise 5 days a week. We have all been told over and over again what to do to lose weight. On a very logical level we know that if you eat poorly, you feel poorly and look poorly. That little voice in your head beats you up yet you keep munching. Most of us do so the question is, why?

My hunch is that somewhere along the way we’re taught that unhealthy food is a treat. It’s something that is used to comfort, to make us feel better when we’re down. The problem is that a lot of these treat foods can have very addictive qualities. Our brain can get a high off these foods. We love the way it feels to eat them, no matter the consequences.

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If you are hoping to feel better about yourself this Summer I recommend you start with a food journal. This is not about keeping track of your calorie intake, it’s not that type of journal. It is about writing down how you feel when you’re eating. For example:

1:00pm – Had a sandwich for lunch, decided to skip breakfast which felt really good.

2:00pm – Tea break, had low-fat milk and 4 biscuits. Jesus, I feel fat already. What is wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just have one?

5:00pm – Had a take away for dinner. It’s shit food but I had a shit day. Ugh, I feel miserable…

If you have a negative relationship with food that can change. Instead of focusing on a number on a scale take some time to sit with your feelings. As your attitude towards food changes so will your attachment to it. Or maybe you’ll learn it’s how you comfort, numb or grieve. If that’s the case then talking to someone can help, you don’t have to deal with all of life’s stresses on your own.

Starting today don’t beat yourself up for what you’re eating. Take some time to explore why you’re eating. I did an article on body image a few months ago, if you feel like reading more have a look.

“I am beginning to measure myself in strength, not pounds. Sometimes in smiles.” – Laurie Halse Anderson

The self, not the selfie

For any of you unfamiliar with the word ‘selfie’ it is a self-portrait usually taken with a mobile. Recently on Facebook and Twitter a new trend has developed where girls and women take no-makeup selfies. Although I have not jumped on that band wagon, the Irish Cancer Society has in a very creative way.

They have decided to use these no make-up photos as a way to fundraise. Using your Irish mobile and texting your photo to 50300, €4 gets donated to the charity. Or you can just text the number and the money is donated without any picture needed.

I believe this is a great idea and I will be donating but I won’t be taking the ‘selfie’. The reason? I don’t share the idea that showing my makeup-less face is that important. Why is it that as woman have we bought into the concept that we need makeup to make ourselves look good? I prefer my face without any blemishes or dark circles however, I don’t think I have ever asked why that is. Men (majority) don’t wear makeup and seem perfectly content walking around with naked faces.

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I believe this comes down to how woman feel about their inner selves. I get a sense that on the whole, most woman don’t like themselves very much. Using the example of the image above there is a case to be argued that woman are made to feel less. Which means there is a great opportunity to change that and it has to start at the individual level. If we had a planet full of well adjusted, happy individuals this would be an easier place to live I am sure.

Ever heard the saying ‘fake it, until you make it’? When it comes to self worth it’s a helpful belief. A great way to make yourself feel more secure in your being is with positive affirmations. I’ll give a few examples but if you want more, read up here. This exercise will work best if you do it every day, writing down the statements and saying them out loud.

  • I am a happy and healthy person.
  • I feel a divine sense of well being, high self esteem and confidence.
  • I believe in myself and my ability to do anything.
  • I have a positive attitude towards myself.
  • I feel appreciative and grateful for everything in my life.

Instead of the importance of looking good to the outside world, why not focus your attention to feeling good on the inside. The more happy you are in yourself the less you’ll care about others opinions of you. Maybe give yourself time to examine what makes you feel attractive and what doesn’t. Decide what you want for you, instead of what the world wants from you.

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” – J.M. Barrie

Stop Settling

Due to the format I’ve chosen for this site all the titles are in caps. This often can look as if you are being yelled the subject. In most cases that is not my intention. However, this time I would like you to hear the title as a loud voice in your head. A mantra you remember again and again, especially when you’re being treated in a way you do not deserve.

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It seems as though many people feel that overall happiness is make believe or unattainable. If you believe that then of course you aren’t feeling fulfilled.

There are many things in our culture that seem to be taken as truth and no one questions:

  • Everyone is unhappy in their job
  • Relationships are hard
  • Life is all about struggle and is always difficult

The stories we tell ourselves are powerful and whether you believe it or not, they shape our reality. If all you see is struggle and strife, all you experience is struggle and strife.

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Not everyone is unhappy in their jobs. Our culture places a lot of emphasis (maybe too much) on work. There’s an unwritten rule that we should live to work, not work to live. Why do we buy into that? It’s not worth it, dreading going into work everyday. Quitting in many cases is not an option so here are some tips on how to better enjoy your job.

Relationships can have rough spots but they shouldn’t always be difficult. It can be scary to examine a relationship but maybe it’s time if you are feeling unhappy.

Life can be full of difficult times but it does not have to always be that way. Loss and grief are terrible things to endure but don’t let them take you over. There are so many parts to you. You are not just your struggles.

If you want to read more on why you shouldn’t settle in life have a read here and here.

Start telling yourself that you deserve happiness and joy and be sure to settle for nothing less.

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela