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This five step assessment will help break your low mood

Most of us will go through times of low mood at some point in our lives. Perhaps sparked by stressful life events – redundancy, grief, lack of sleep, pregnancy, loss, illness, or perhaps for no obvious reason, we just find ourselves stuck in a rut.

It’s when this period of low mood goes on for a few weeks or more that it might be worth taking a PHQ9 depression test and speaking to your GP. But often there are certain factors we can influence and by implementing tiny changes, we can help break the cycle of negativity and pull ourselves out of the pit of doom.

If you find yourself caught in a trap, with a continually low mood try this CBT approach and carry out the five key areas assessment, to see what factors are in your control. The five areas are:


Assessing your life in this way can help you see the impact of low mood and depression on different aspects of your life and understand how it creates a vicious circle that can keep you feeling bad. Looking at the relationships between the different areas, you can find small practical things you can do that will have an impact on your mood and help to break the negative circle.


What’s going on in your life that could be affecting your low mood? What events have taken place? What’s causing pressure? What’s the state of your close relationships and support network?  And what impact do these things have on your thoughts?


What unhelpful things do you say to yourself? Are you self-critical, do you berate and judge yourself because of what’s going on? Do you tell yourself you ‘should be doing more’, or ‘should be able to deal with things better’? Do you read others minds and fortune tell? Do you blame yourself for things that aren’t really your fault and play the victim? These are all negative thinking traps and a common sign of low mood and depression. Dwelling on these often untruthful thoughts, makes us feel worse.


Have you ever noticed that what you think, can impact your mood? When your mind is full of negative, self-critical thoughts, you feel worse emotionally. Because of the spiralling negative thinking traps, you feel down, guilty, fed up, angry and stressed and one of the key symptoms of low mood – life stops feeling enjoyable. These feelings can also affect us physically.


Low mood can be physically exhausting. It can have an impact on appetite and make you lose weight. Other physical symptoms also include headaches, feeling sick and run down, feeling achy and lethargic, loss of sex drive, a churning stomach and palpitations. All of these things including thinking patterns, altered feelings and physical symptoms add up and affect your behaviour and activity levels.


The worse you feel, the less you do and the less you do, the worse you feel. Perhaps you’re staying inside for much of the day, avoiding social situations and snapping at people, no longer cooking meals or taking phone calls from friends. Other common unhelpful behaviours include drinking too much, over sleeping, comfort eating and putting important things off, which can all worsen how you feel.

The good news is this vicious circle can spin both ways, so by making a positive change in one area, can impact the others too. Perhaps a small first step might be saying yes to an invitation from a friend or answering a phone call from a family member. In turn this could boost your mood and leave you with slightly more optimistic thoughts. You could also cook a nutritious meal, clean the house or go for a long walk in the park. Bit by bit, these small and achievable activities can get you going again. Give you a sense of achievement and pleasure or connection to others.

Ecophilia – a Sprinkle of Wellbeing Magic

Ecophilia is the suggestion that humans possess an innate tendency, in fact an innate desire to connect with nature. Perhaps the result of millions of years of evolution in a natural environment, long before the industrial revolution and urbanisation took hold.

Apparently spending time in nature, surrounding ourselves with all things green and mother earth (think hugging trees and running barefoot in fields of Barley) makes us feel complete, happy and satisfied. In fact, just ten minutes in nature can reduce stress, boost our mental health and improve our overall sense of wellbeing. And occasionally make us snotty and irritable during hayfever season!

So if you’re feeling inspired and want to take full advantage of this glorious weather, grab those antihistamines and read our top 10 ways to spend more time outdoors and boost your mental health and wellbeing;

  1. Visit your local city farm 
  2. Buy a new plant and keep a photo diary each week as you care for it and watch it grow 
  3. Grow plants on your windowsill – a pleasure for you and passers by! 
  4. Collect leaves, feathers, bark and fauna and create a natural art project with your kids 
  5. Learn about the natural cycles of the year
  6. Go fruit picking in the countryside
  7. Apply for an allotment and find someone to share it with 
  8. Try growing some vegetables amongst your garden plants 
  9. Go for a run in your local park or take your yoga mat and do some yoga/meditation under the shade of a big tree
  10. Build an animal habitat in your garden – a birdbox, hedgehog house or even a pond if you have space


4 Easy Ways to Feel More Positive

Positive emotions such as joy, love, amusement, gratitude and pride are the foundations of a flourishing life. Experiencing positive emotions not only makes us feel good but encourages creativity and social interaction. Positive emotions also broaden our perspective. Think about a time when you last felt inspired – did anything seem possible? Or a time when you felt deep awe – did your personal problems fade away with the realisation of something far greater?

How can we cultivate positive emotions and experience more of them? Boosting both our health and happiness. According to Positive Psychologist Dr. Barbara Fredrickson – who has spent over 20 years studying positive emotions, there are four steps to increasing our positivity ratio.
To be clear, the idea isn’t to avoid negative emotions – we need those in order to grow and flourish too – but instead, to counteract the negativity by boosting our ratio of positive emotions.

The four steps are:

  1. Allow yourself to go back and re-experience positive emotions on a regular basis. Remembering what different positive emotions feel like allows us to recognise them more easily.
  2. Act as though you feel the emotion. Pretending to be excited or inspired will actually encourage muscle memory and have a positive emotional effect.
  3. Put yourself in situations where you’re more likely to feel positive emotions. E.g. In the wilderness, with friends, plan a romantic meal or watch a comedy. Know where and why you feel positive emotions and prioritise time for those activities.
  4. Be mindful of what you’re already feeling. Often we feel positive emotions, but we’re too busy going about our daily routines and living on autopilot to fully experience them. Tuning into our emotions regularly, allows us to realise our feelings and even magnify them.

You can read more about Dr. Barbara Fredrickson and the Positivity Ratio here.


Ditch Those Toxic Tech Habits and Become a Better Version of You! 

Care to admit it or not, we’ve become a nation of tech addicts who spend more time looking at our screens each day than sleeping (on average 8 hours 41 minutes). When the average adult picks up their phone over 150 times a day, it’s hardly surprising that 69% of children say their parents spend too much time on technology.

If we look at the building blocks of happiness found in Positive Psychology Professor Martin Seligman‘s PERMA model, we find five key areas we need to nurture and cultivate in order to live our most happy and flourishing life. These are –


So what’s the impact of our technology addiction on each of these building blocks? And how do our digital devices stop us feeling, thinking and experiencing happiness?

Let’s take a closer look at what toxic habits we could give up in order to boost our happiness.


You’ve heard it before and yet you continue to watch one last episode of your favourite TV series on Netflix just before bed and then wonder why you have trouble falling asleep. The blue light emitted by our laptops, iPads and iPhones (also emitted by the sun!),  slows the production of melatonin in the brain – the hormone that signals to our brain that it’s time for bed!

So Boost your chances of waking up in a good mood by implementing a digital curfew. Switch off all technology at least one hour (ideally two) before bedtime and benefit from the wonders of a good night’s sleep zzzzzz…


Put a stop to those unwanted interruptions and the mindless browsing by keeping your phone on silent and out of sight. Don’t tempt yourself by keeping it on your desk or out on the table over dinner. This sounds simple, and it is. If you can get into the habit of removing your phone from sight, you have a much better chance of resisting the temptation to check it time and time again!


Try leaving your phone at home altogether when you’re out at social engagements. Especially when spending time with family and loved ones. Instead give them your full, undivided attention. Remind yourself of the days before mobile phones, and set a great example to your children too.


As social beings, we need human interaction to give our lives meaning and purpose. Start noticing how often technology gets in the way of a meaningful connection, be it a conversation that’s severed by a google search or a confession that’s told over Whatsapp.


If you’re relaxing a home over the weekends, try switching it off for an afternoon and instead dedicate the time to a new or existing hobby. Trial that new recipe book, pick up an old instrument or learn a new language and then benefit from the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel afterwards.

This article was originally written for HQ Psychotherapy & Counselling and published on 9th May 2017.

Mindfulness and the Entrepreneur

This article was written by Lucy Faulks, the Founder of Technotox and originally featured on MindSpace on 1st June 2017.

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
(Old Zen adage)

I always knew I wanted to work for myself. Freedom and flexibility are two of my strongest values and every 9-5 job I ever had stepped all over them so the decision to hand in my notice and become an entrepreneur, was one of the easiest I’ve ever made.

Not so easy, however, was navigating the emotional rollercoaster that comes with running a small business.

Long, lonely days filled with struggle and anxiety regularly featured in my first few months as a start-up. In fact, they’re still a common occurrence two years down the line!

It was only when I reconnected with my regular mindfulness practice, something that had fallen by the wayside along with my commute, that I was able to see through the self-induced storm and stay focused on the goal ahead.

Here are the top five ways mindfulness helped me as an entrepreneur:


Going solo brings about a lot of change, and usually, with change comes fear. In my case, fear manifested itself as anxiety, which would usually rear its ugly head every time I checked my empty bank account or thought about the huge amount of work and endless obstacles that lay ahead of me.

When I felt anxious, I would stop and breathe and turn towards the feeling.

Acknowledging it, being mindful that it was perfectly natural when I was taking such a big step, and reminding myself that it would eventually pass, helped me to relax and allowed room for clarity.


As mentioned, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of work and barriers that setting up alone presents, but building my awareness muscle through mindfulness meditation, allowed me to focus on what I was doing that very moment, task by task, and not get too caught up worrying about the future.


When you have an off day in full-time employment – spending the day researching holidays and chatting to friends – it tends not to have much of an impact. But as an entrepreneur, it puts you behind. Behind in your business plan, behind your goals and behind your competitors. Yet we all know how easily distracted we are by the web, tech and our mobile phones! Combine that with working from home and it’s a recipe for disaster. Practicing mindfulness allowed me to tune into my distractions, to notice more readily when my attention was broken and to pull it back time and time again.


I was also able to spot unhelpful thought patterns like catastrophising “this is never going to work” and fortune-telling “that pitch was a disaster, they hated me” more easily, actively challenging them and replacing with more rational, realistic thoughts and positive affirmations. Preventing them from causing too much long-term damage.


As clichéd as it might sound, when the mind is still, the soul has a chance to speak.

And when you’re pursuing a business that has meaning and heart which mine does for me, it is often during my mindfulness practice that pearls of wisdom, solutions to problems and creative ideas come to me.

Instead of a 45-minute stressful commute to work, my morning routine now includes a coffee, journaling, and a healthy dose of the entrepreneur’s elixir. 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation.



Poetry Friday

When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving advice,
you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why I should’t feel that way
you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem,
then you have failed me, strange as it may seem.

Listen! All I asked was that you listen,
not talk or do-just hear me.
And I can do for myself; i’m not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself,
you contribute to my fear and weakness.

But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what I feel,
no matter how irrational.
then I can stop trying to convince you and get on with the business of understanding what’s behind this irrational feeling.
And when that’s clear the answers are obvious and I don’t need advice.
irrational feelings make sense when we understand what’s behind them.

Perhaps that’s why prayer works, sometimes, for some people,
because their god is mute, and he doesn’t give advice or try to fix things.
He just listens and lets you work it out for yourself.

So please just listen and just hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn;
And i’ll listen to you.

(Listen by anonymous)

How to Master the Art of Being Alone

Are you scared to be alone?
Do you only spend time by yourself when you’re forced to?
Why is solitude always met with negative connotations?

In this scientific based TED Talk, Thuy-vy Nguyen explores what happens to us when we’re alone and how simply shifting to choosing to be alone, can help us to cultivate positive emotions and feelings of peace and relaxation.



A Wise Cherokee Tale

The Tale of Two Wolves

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life… 

”A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. 
”It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.” “One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.

” “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

” “This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked, “Which wolf will win Grandfather?”

 The old chief simply replied, 
”The one you feed.

10 Ways to Outsmart your Smartphone

  1. Keep your phone on charge away from your bed
    It’s so tempting to check emails just that one last time before bed, or thumb straight for social media apps as soon as you’ve turned off your alarm. So put a stop to these unhealthy autopilot habits by charging your phone away from your bedside.
  2. Buy an alarm clock
    Yep you heard right, a battery operated alarm clock! Stave off the temptation to check emails first thing in the morning, by keeping them out of reach and don’t rely on them to wake you up!
  3. Erase social media apps
    You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can break the habit of automatically flicking through all your social media apps every time you pick up your phone.
  4. Remove multiple email accounts
    Our bosses might be livid, but surely you aren’t paid enough to be on call 24 hours a day? To be answering emails at 10pm or on the tube into work? Respect your sanity (and savour your free time) by deleting any possible email accounts from your phone now. Go on be ruthless!
  5. Check emails at set times throughout the day
    Research shows that checking emails at set times through the day (e.g. first thing in the morning, just after lunch and an hour before the end of the day) can help reduce stress levels. This is because awareness of an ever-growing inbox can create overwhelm and affect our concentration. Making it impossible to focus solely on the email we’re writing in that very moment. Not checking our inbox every time we see new mail arrive, removes this stress and helps us stay focused.
  6. Learn to screen emails 
    Most emails are useless marketing driven messages anyway, so learn to prioritise and delete emails quickly and efficiently. Swipe, swipe, swipe!
  7. Think before you CC!
    There’s nothing worse than being included in unnecessary email chains, so think before you cc an endless list of colleagues and be considerate of their email stress!
  8. Don’t forget to call
    The luxury of emails, whatsapp and text messages means we often forget to use our phones to actually speak to people directly. It can even feel a little daunting when we haven’t done it for a while.
    Don’t let yourself lose the art of conversation by picking up the phone once in a while and connect voice to voice.
  9. Do not Disturb
    Don’t forget about the Do Not Disturb function your phone (Settings > Do Not Disturb > Scheduled), in fact why not schedule an hour or two a day two be alone and catch up with yourself?
  10. Add our “Put Your Phone Down” wallpaper to your home screen! 

Put Your Phone Down

9 Signs you Might be Depressed

Do you know the main signs of depression? Could you spot them in others?

  1. Feelings of inescapable sadness, emptiness or hopelessness
  2. Loss of interest in life and the simple things
  3. Unexplained weight loss or gain
  4. Difficulty sleeping and staying asleep
  5. Restless and irritable
  6. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness and low self-esteem
  7. Fatigue and low energy levels
  8. Problems concentrating, remembering and making decisions
  9. Thoughts of suicide and thoughts of death

If you’ve had five or more of these symptoms for two weeks or more, you might be depressed. Make an appointment with your local GP or talk to someone you can trust. You could also call one of the organisations listed here who offer help and support directly.