This page presents information for clients that supports our therapy work; I will be adding content steadily whenever something seems to be of use.
My approach to counselling is in essence, person-centred. I do however offer more information than most counsellors about the mind and how we are affected by experiences. I find that this often helps clients to be more actively engaged in understanding problems and finding solutions that last.
Things to consider in conjunction with therapy
There are lifestyle factors that can have significant, positive effects on wellbeing and the potential to change. These are now quite widely promoted but are worth listing here – they include the following.
Diet: regular meals at regular times, made up of a varied, ‘Mediterranean’ type diet are helpful. A balanced diet helps us to achieve physical and mental health, improves cognition and even helps to reduce the incidence of dementia later in life. The gut biome – the bacteria, viruses and fungi growing in digestive system – are numbered in hundreds of millions – this is normal and necessary to survival. However, new research shows that the biome can get out of balance due to stress, poor diet and other factors. Imbalances can contribute to obesity, depression, and poor memory.
Hydration: making sure that enough water is consumed each day (without overdoing it!) helps to make sure that the brain is functioning well. Alcohol – a glass of wine or fortified wine, or a single measure of spirit each day does no harm, in fact it has been shown to be healthy. Heavier drinking is not advised for obvious reasons…
Sleep: Each of us has differing sleep requirements – some need only six hours per night whilst others need nine. There is a great deal of research-based advice available on this topic; essentially, regular sleep is necessary for health, a clear mind and avoiding dementia problems in later life. Good sleep hygiene (a regular sleep pattern. no electronic screens for an hour before sleep, a regular going-to-bed routine that includes relaxation, low light levels and a comfortable, undisturbed sleeping area are all helpful.
Exercise: Being fit helps! I am not talking about Olympic champion standards, just the regular, able to walk up stairs without getting out of breath sort of fitness. Use the stairs instead of the lift: walk to the shops if you can: ride a bike: play games or sports with friends if you are not a member of a club. You get the picture. Exercise improves wellbeing, helps neurons to grow and connect in the brain, and assists a positive mood. It is surprising how small amounts of exercise, done regularly, can make a difference.
Socialising: Here I am not suggesting that you become a party animal but that talking with people, sharing a joke, simply saying ‘hello, its a nice day (or not)’ helps us to raise our spirits. Chatting to someone at the supermarket or bus stop has a remarkable effect. When feeling down, picking up the phone or popping round to talk to a friend can make a world of difference. One effect is that connecting with others causes the release of a hormone called oxytocin – often described in newspapers as the ‘hug hormone’ that helps us to feel good.
Music: Listening to music – especially favourite tunes – has a positive effect and again, helps neurons to grow. Try to make space in your days for this. Even better, if you can, learn to play an instrument (if you do not do so already) or join a choir if you can sing – that really does help the brain to grow.
Dance: Obviously this is closely related to music, but dancing is known to have positive effects on stress reduction, coordination, fitness etc. It is a good way to support getting in touch with the physical and emotional parts of awareness. Our bodies hold memories of past difficulties (and happiness too) and movement can often give clues to what our difficulties might be, and release from their control.
Nature: A walk through pleasant woodland, a park or fields, or on the coast, has proven positive effects on mood and wellbeing.
Meditation: this is often seen as something esoteric, self-indulgent or ‘touchy-feely’. On the contrary, this gentle process is highly effective in improving wellbeing, self-esteem, feeling more in touch and able to deal with problems. It has even been shown to assist a parent’s ability to improve relations with their children. Meditation causes generation of neurons in the hippocampus and amygdala, and elsewhere – key centres of the brain involved in emotional regulation, memory and spacial awareness.
The above recommendations may be more or less possible for you in your life at present. I am happy to explore with you how you might introduce and use these activities to support a healthier, happier life. Undertaking therapy is costly in time and money; it makes sense to do cost-free things that increase the probability of success. Doesn’t it? For people who have been traumatised, some of these things (movement and meditation especially) can trigger trauma feelings; this is something that therapy can help resolve.
If you manage to do even one or two of these things on a regular basis, you can reasonably expect some positive effects. Imagine if you can do most of them as part of your regular cycle of activities! Many of them do not require any additional effort or cost, as they can replace existing, less productive activities. This is not about forcing things, but more about working towards what helps satisfaction of our minds and bodies.