My number one recommendation for couples in crisis

My-number-one-recommendation-for-couples-in-crisis

Relationships are tricky things.

There are days of sunshine, when everything is ‘right with the world’; I am feeling calm, relaxed and in control.  I have infinite patience with my darling husband, even when he says or does something that I don’t particularly find attractive.

By contrast, there are other days when I am tired, stressed and generally feeling like I could crawl back into bed and hide from the world. I just don’t ‘feel like’ making an effort with anybody. Of course I do—after all you ‘should’ put on a good, co-operative, pleasant face for the people you work, eat and play with. That’s how community works. That’s how we learn to have our own needs met. But by the time I get home, I am exhausted, moody and unresponsive. On those days, my husband cops the ‘stressed’ me, the one that is reactive and blaming instead of being loving and responsive.

Over time I have become more aware of what is going on inside of my body, making the conscious effort to challenge negative behaviour that I previously felt justified in directing towards my husband.  I believe that it is important to walk the talk and, given that I speak to numerous couples and individuals every week, I have applied the interventions I teach to my personal behaviour and my marriage relationship. Subsequently, our relationship has progressively improved throughout our 28 years of marriage.

As you would expect, I have a tool bag full of useful techniques, ideas and resources that individuals and couples can benefit from. My best one by far is Mindfulness Meditation. Why would I say this? Well, before a couple can begin to work on their relationship, it is absolutely essential that each person learn how to calm or soothe themselves. Failure to learn how to calm yourself will ultimately forfeit any chance of improving your relationship.

When we are significantly stressed and tired, we also tend to be incredibly reactive; easily frustrated and irritated, quick to jump to wrong conclusions, readily angered by the smallest thing (you will always experience it as a BIG thing at the time), defensive, cynical, blaming, judgemental and generally difficult to get along with.

Whilst we all need a bit of stress to keep us motivated, physiologically there is a point, when reached, that you are no longer able to contain and control the stress hormones and it controls you instead.  It is the ‘fight or flight’ instinct, typically activated by the flood of stress hormones coursing through your brain and body.

A couple experiencing conflict is likely to be experiencing this level of debilitating stress regularly. Learning how to communicate effectively with one another and repair your relationship first of all requires each person to take responsibility for themselves and learn how to come back to a calmer and more responsive state of mind. Only then can we do the work of learning to listen and negotiate our needs.

Mindfulness Meditation is, put simply, learning to be present to the moment, focusing on what is happening within you and/ or around you. By learning this discipline (and believe you me, it is a challenge for most of us), your brain is rested and sends the message that you are no longer under threat. Stress hormones are no longer produced and Serotonin (the calm hormone) is activated bringing you down to a calmer state.

In our sessions, I teach simple techniques that couples and individuals can apply in the moment. However, to promote a general sense of wellbeing and calm that is more resilient to stress, it is necessary to practice Mindfulness Meditation on a regular basis, even daily.

Here at Watersedge Counselling we have recently partnered with Audio Mental Training to provide our readers with easy access to fantastic Mindfulness Meditation programs that you can download and start using immediately.  My personal favourite and the program I am using on a daily basis is called Optimal Health.

Just click on this link: Audio Mental Training or the banner on our sidebar, and check it out for yourself.

In the future I will share with you how I am personally benefiting from this program. I would love to hear from others who choose to invest in one of these programs or some other Mindful Meditation that you are already using. It will make a difference to you personally and to your significant relationships.

Is your relationship in crisis? Would you like to learn more Mindfulness Meditation? Here’s what you need to do: contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now to book in our online diary.

7 Great Apps for Mindfulness

Mindfulness

We know that technology can detract from our relationships and general wellbeing, but what if we turned this around and used it to benefit our health? There are plenty of apps out there that can help you relax, focus, and even go to sleep. Here’s a list of 7 of our favourites.

Stop, Breathe and Think

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A free app that will work on most devices, it recommends varying meditations for you depending on your age, feelings and current mood. Easy to navigate, and with the ability to monitor your progress, meditation cycles range from 3-20 minutes. Having been nominated for a Weebly, it is one of the best.

Calm

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Simply put, Calm will centre you and remind you to be present. Basic in use, you can select a calming image, the time frame of your selected meditation, and if you want it guided. Handy for a small moment of respite or a reminder that lunch break is over; it is available on most devices for free.

Mindfulness Training App

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Whether you have been practicing Mindfulness for years, or are giving it a go for the first time, the Mindfulness Training App will cater to you. Personalised to your own needs and reduce stress, it will teach you how to practice and cultivate Mindfulness. Available on iOS and Android, there is a small cost for this one.

Headspace Meditation

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One of the most well-known and respected apps, Headspace uses interesting and simple graphics that will teach you how to meditate. Implementing a buddy system so you can monitor your progress and work with friends, it includes various activities and meditation cycles that run from 2 minutes to an hour. Catered to fit your moment of need, you can register for their free 10-day cycle and then sign up for a small fee to access the rest of the content.

Smiling Mind

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Especially designed for young people, Smiling Mind is a free app created by therapists. Able to cater for ages from childhood to the mature adult, it is modern, and highly recommended by many professionals. Smiling Mind is free and available on most devices.

Buddhify

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Focusing on different areas of your wellbeing, Buddhify will help you to overcome stress, get to sleep, and live in the present moment. Be guided through each activity in your life with over 80 meditation cycles, and monitor your progress with the assistance of tips for improvement. Stylish in design and the same price as a cup of coffee, it is available on iOS and Android.

Meditation Timer Pro

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If you’re looking for a simple and easy to use app, Meditation Timer Pro is ideal. Helping you to focus with the use of intervals and reminders, it removes distractions and allows you to personify the app to fit your needs. There is a small cost involved for this one, and if you need a reminder to stop and breathe during your day, this is ideal. Meditation Timer Pro is available on iOS.

Do you feel stressed, anxious and/or depressed? Do you want to know more about Mindfulness? Then here’s what you need to do: contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434331243 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how she can best help you, or press book now to book on the online diary.

Why Be Present?

It is normal for our minds to wander. Whether we are in conversation, at work, or doing day-to-day activities, we have a tendency to think about the past or the future. When we do this, we are more prone to anxiety and depression. By practicing Mindfulness and being present in every situation, science has shown that we will be happier.

When does your mind wander, and what do you think about? Next time you find yourself thinking ahead, take a moment and live in the present. This infographic by Presence Training tells us more about the benefits of being present and how we can do this in our own lives. Take a look and let us know how you stay mindful every day.

Presence-infographic-Being-PresentDo you feel stressed, anxious and/or depressed? Are you looking for creative ways to relax and enjoy life? Then here’s what you need to do: contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434331243 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how she can best help you, or press book now to book on the online diary.

Mindful Living 101

It can be hard to catch a breath most days. We are driven by our never ending to do list, and are constantly changing our agenda depending on the needs of our family, friends and workplace. When we do this, we can neglect ourselves and we consistently live in a hyper-tense state. Living with this constant stress and pressure is not healthy for us or the people we do life with. So what can we do to change this?

The practice of Mindfulness could be just what you need to help you through the day. In the Watersedge Go 30 Days Alcohol Free Challenge, Mindfulness is described as “an awareness of everything around you, what is within you and how you are feeling.” It is a simple way of pausing for a moment and letting the tension go. In this infographic by Jen Moff, we are shown what Mindfulness is and how it can help us.

Rather than just being a solution to our stress, this infographic highlights that Mindfulness is a lifestyle. It isn’t complicated- rather it is a change in your perspective and habits. Ultimately, it means living with a focus on Authenticity, Openness, Intentionality and Grace. Using mindfulness as a strategy to curb our self-destructive behaviours can relieve us of stressors and habits that hurt us. In fact, the infographic shows the three fold benefits of the practice personally, spiritually and professionally. So if you want to care for yourself and simultaneously forge a platform to become more accomplished and creative at work, this could be for you!

How do you practice mindfulness?

There is no one way for you to do this, but ultimately it comes down to you being still and focusing on your breathing. The infographic gives you several ways to live in a Mindful state, but to get started take 1 minute to focus on your breath. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply. If your mind wanders, that's okay – just go back to your focus.

At the end of the exercise, ask yourself the following questions:

How did I feel before the exercise?

How do I feel now?

What physical changes did you notice?

What mental or emotional changes did you notice?

Mindfulness is simple, but it will take practice. So take a moment to step out of your day and care for yourself. As this infographic shows, when we consciously live with an awareness of what is around us, we can become more fulfilled and live a happier life.

Mindful Living 101

Do you want to learn more about mindfulness? Do you desire to be bold, be daring and be you? Sign up for our free ‘Go 30 days Alcohol Free’ Challenge here and step into 2015 with new confidence. Contact WatersedgeCounselling on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you or press book now to book in our online diary.

How Do I Find Happiness?

hugs_no_2_by_captivatedimages“The habit of being happy enables one to be freed, or largely freed, from the dominance of the outward conditions.” -Robert Louis Stevenson

I have noticed that I often speak of happiness as something that I receive when the focus of my happiness is attained. You might be familiar with some of these statements: ‘I will just be happy when the car is fixed’; ‘I will be happy when the kids go back to school’; ‘When I stop smoking I will be happy’; ‘Buying that house in the country will be pure happiness’; ‘Having that dress would make me so happy’.

Contrary to Robert Louis Stevenson’s assertion that the habit of happiness will free you from the tyranny of your needs and wants or ‘the dominance of the outward conditions’, statements like these communicate the belief that happiness IS dependent upon your outward condition, having your needs and wants met.

What makes you happy? Are you happy? Have you mastered the ‘habit of being happy’? Are you ‘largely free’ from the dominance of the outward condition? These are the questions that I have been asking myself, leading me to some interesting answers.

The Grammar of Happiness

I was fascinated by a documentary I saw recently called ‘The Grammar of Happiness’. The documentary followed the story of a missionary amongst the extraordinary ‘unconvertible' Amazonian Pirahã tribe, a group of indigenous hunter-gatherers who the missionary experienced as a ‘happy’ people. My fascination was aroused by the fact that the Pirahã have no words for ‘the ‘past’ or ‘the future’ in their language. These people live ‘in the present’; they have all they need, when they need it. They appeared to be a secure people, experiencing order and stability. It was apparent that these people had a strong sense of connection to each other, of belonging and being loved; a ‘happy and contented’ people.

I wondered how this ‘living in the present’ contributed to their happiness, after all they still have needs to be met, children to feed, a hostile environment to live in. Their outward condition is still a reality, yet they live as a people who have made peace with it, have learned how to have their basic needs met within its context and be happy. Their inner attitude is not dominated by past regrets or future desires, but by a calm acknowledgment and acceptance of what they have in the present, producing within them an internal freedom.

Part of the Pirahã’s secret to happiness is their interdependence. Living, eating, working, playing – they do it together. Unlike our own western society where individualism and self-actualization is celebrated, these people live as one, sharing their lives together. They are generative, passing on their knowledge from one generation to the next as they live and work together for the common good. The habit of happiness is a reality for the Pirahã because they accept that the collective and individual needs will be met at the time that need arises.

The Pirahã people teach us that the Habit of Happiness is possible when you:

1. Live in The Present Moment

Living in the present, often termed ‘mindfulness’ is a discipline that makes you calmer, peaceful and feeling more in control. Where your mind is often preoccupied by matters of the past or the future, even while you are actively engaged in the present, when living mindfully all your energy is conscripted into focusing on the here and now: the conversation you are having, the work you are doing, the meal you are preparing. You make fewer mistakes because anxiety is not present to distract you or rob you of energy. Relationships are potentially stronger because being fully present to the other person minimizes misunderstanding. When you encounter personal or interpersonal problems, mindfulness allows you to ground yourself, feel calm, think clearly and come to a successful outcome.

Doctor Timothy Sharp, Chief Happiness Officer of The Happiness Institute in Australia says about the pursuit of happiness; “It’s about facing up to [our problems] in a constructive way so that we can come to the best solutions.” His statement reminds me that when you choose not to face up to your problems, choosing instead to dwell on the past or dream about the future or distract yourself by the endless pursuit of your wants; then you choose to be dominated by your outward conditions. Dr Sharp implies that happiness is gained when you look within yourself to deal with the challenges of everyday life. To look within your-self is a mindfulness act. You are mentally disciplined to be present to your own inner experience, bringing a calmness and clarity that helps you find the best possible outcome at the time. In time you learn the mindfulness principle that ‘there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so’.

2. Cultivate Strong, Supportive Relationships

Human beings are interdependent creatures, needing each other for support, help, encouragement, comfort and company. The successful interdependence of the Pirahã people is based on the individual’s commitment to, and respect for the other. Parents raise their children to understand and value the collective experience, and work with each other toward the common good.

I wonder what that would look like in your daily experience if you applied that same principle. In our Western society, individualism is often celebrated over the group experience and children are raised with the belief that to have one’s own need met, you have to protect and promote yourself above other people’s needs.

Cultivating strong supportive relationships requires that you have a co-operative and compassionate attitude towards the other rather than a competitive attitude; that you become more intuitive and thoughtful towards other. To achieve these qualities, it is necessary to be more internally driven rather than externally controlled or, in Robert Louis Stevenson’s words, be less dominated by outward conditions. Cultivating inner qualities such as kindness, patience, gratitude and optimism not only make you a better person but a person internally driven and therefore a happier person.

Conclusion

The Habit of Happiness – is it possible? I believe it is if you are prepared to apply yourself to the practice of mindfully focusing on the present and consistently seeking to connect with others in ways that are kind, considerate and thoughtful. Will you take that challenge to develop the ‘habit of happiness’ with me?I look forward to hearing your feedback about it.

If you want to grow, experience happiness and wellness and reach toward your full potential then here’s what you need to do contact me on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you.