Latest Posts

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 –

  1. POSITIVE EMOTIONS
  2. ENGAGEMENT
  3. RELATIONSHIPS
  4. MEANING 
  5. ACCOMPLISHMENT

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.

1. POSITIVE EMOTIONS (P)

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…

2. ENGAGEMENT (E)

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!

3. RELATIONSHIPS (R)

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.

4. MEANING (M) 

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.

5. ACCOMPLISHMENT (A)

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:

1. CONTROL ANXIETY 

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.

2. STAY PRESENT

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.

3. IMPROVED FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION 

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.

4. NOTICE UNHELPFUL THOUGHT PATTERNS

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.

5. INCREASED CREATIVITY 

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.

 

 

Are you Surviving or Thriving?

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme is Surviving or Thriving? 

A surprising 1 in 6 people interviewed in the 2016 Mental Health Foundation report, showed symptoms associated with ill mental health – sleep troubles, worry, irritability and fatigue – yet they didn’t believe they had a mental health problem. So this year, instead of looking at why 1 in 4 adults in the UK now suffers from ill mental health, the focus is on why so few people with seemingly good mental health are merely surviving  not thriving. Perhaps the spectrum of good and bad mental health is much narrower than we initially thought. If so, where do you sit on the scale?

Find out more about the state of the UK’s mental health here and get involved in Mental Health Awareness Week here.

MHAW

 

 

 

 

 

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.

How Green are your Fingers? Our Top 5 Gardening Health Benefits

Not only has the weather been glorious of late, but it’s officially National Gardening Week so what better excuse to don your wellies and head outside to get those fingers green?!

Gardening has endless benefits for your health and wellbeing. For instance, a recent study published in the Journal of Public Health found that just 30 minutes of allotment gardening each week significantly reduces stress and fatigue and boosts self-esteem. And another study conducted by Bakker Scalding found that 88% of people find that mental wellbeing is a key benefit for spending time in the garden. So it’s not just good for your body, but your mind and soul too.

Here are our top 5 gardening health benefits –

  1. Gardening burns fat and tones you up
    Digging, squatting, trimming and mowing are all great forms of exercise that will help to get the heart rate going and tone up those muscles. So you can get fit and lean without being cooped up in a soulless gym! Spend half an hour doing any of the following activities and you can expect to burn -Digging and shovelling: 250 calories
    Lawn mowing: 195 calories
    Weeding: 105 calories
    Raking: 100 calories
  1. Gardening protects your heart
    Any activity that leaves you slightly out of breath and raises the heartbeat can help protect you against heart disease. The leading cause of death worldwide.
  2. Gardening tops up your vitamin D levels
    Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in your body. These nutrients are needed to keep your teeth, bones and muscles healthy and luckily, the body starts to form vitamin D naturally after exposure to sunlight. Is there really any better excuse to spend time in the garden?
  3. Gardening boosts your mental health
    The psychological benefits of being outdoors, working in nature and the fresh air, are also clear. Studies have shown just looking at trees and plants can reduce stress and relieve anxiety. Gardening can also provide a good outlet for anger, and allows us to feel like we are gaining a sense of control when things might be falling apart around us. It can also keep the brain stimulated as we learn new methods and techniques to keep our little patch prime and plentiful! 
  4. Gardening boosts your self-worth and confidence
    Gardening  connects us to other living things, making us responsible for them. Nurturing seeds and watching them grow, gives us a sense of purpose and achievement, which in turn boosts our self-esteem and confidence.

Poetry Friday

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Want to Feel More Fulfilled? Go Find your Flow!

Time stands still, oblivious to your surroundings, the world is set to pause, fully absorbed on your task at hand, focused and concentrating, time disappears and you become completely lost.

Psychologists call these fully absorbent times, ‘flow states’ or a ‘heightened state of consciousness’. Times when our skills and competency are tested and our ability is just about sufficient to meet the challenge. Stretching us to our maximum limits. If the challenge is too easy, we become bored and lose interest. Too hard and we become anxious and want to give up. So flow can only be found under very specific conditions.

Perhaps you find yours completing a difficult crossword or playing a musical instrument. You might find it writing up a new project at work or giving a public speech. Learning a new skill like tiling your bathroom!

Regularly finding flow is incredibly important to achieving inner happiness because it leaves us feeling worthy, satisfied and pushes our personal growth by testing our limits. We ultimately feel fulfilled and proud of ourselves, which does wonders for our self-esteem.

Unfortunately, time spent scrolling social media sites, watching netflix and answering whataapps doesn’t count (as much as time disappears when you’re doing them!). In fact, too much time online starring at screens, diminishes our creativity levels which has a negative impact on both flow and happiness.

Where do you find your flow? What could you do to connect with it this weekend?

Additional reading –
Flow: The Psychology of Happiness by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

It’s Time to Talk!

Today is Time to Talk Day. A day to break the silence around mental health and get people talking about their struggles.

Starting a small conversation with someone today, even opening up about your own battles with mental health, could help to change a life. The more we share and show our vulnerabilities, the quicker we can erase the stigma and help those in need.

In words of Gandhi ‘be the change you wish to see in the world‘.

FINAL