Want to get in touch with nature? Want a bit of colour in your life? Then get growing sunflowers for all round well being! Out of all the flowers you can grow sunflowers cannot be beat. They are not just beautiful but they are also so easy to grow. Sunflowers are quick to gain height so they are an ideal starter gardening project for all ages. Bees love them so you will be helping the environment by encouraging them in your garden or space and with some species of sunflowers you can eat the seeds or provide winter sustenance for the birds. Win!
The days are getting longer, brighter and warmer. Spring is officially here. This time of year nature bursts into life, spring flowers are blooming, trees are blossoming and animals are in the process of their mating rituals. There is a definite spring in nature’s step. For humans, the increase in daylight hours is a real boost to our physical and emotional well being.
Nature and its Impact on well being
There’s a mountain of research highlighting what we all know to be true, nature is good for us and has both long and short term physical and mental health benefits. Regular outdoor activity provides a number of physical benefits, it lowers blood pressure, reduces pain, lowers risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, these are just a few of the benefits. Simple activity such as a stroll in the park can aid fitness through gentle exercise as well as provide an array of colour, sights and sounds that aid relaxation and calm the senses.
Spending time in and around nature helps with reducing stress and anxiety. Researchers at the University of Essex conducted a survey where they found that 94% of the individuals believed that spending time in nature and connecting with it help them to have a positive mood. Other studies such a those by Ulrich, Kim and Cervinka show that time in nature or scenes of nature help to increase mood and emotional wellbeing, meaningfulness, and a sense of vitality.
Get in touch with nature
I remember years ago when I first started training as a therapist. I was coping with my own issues of anxiety. My mentor encouraged me to start planting some flowers and veggies. There was something about getting my hands in the earth, nurturing the seedlings and seeing them grow and develop that was deeply satisfying yet so simple it allowed me to re focus, ground and generally feel better. I grew some sunflowers. They were easy, quick and when they bloomed they were beautiful! I was hooked.
Growing Sunflowers – nature therapy at its best!
Bring nature to you –Get some nature therapy wherever you are! Growing sunflowers is a simple way to engage with nature or bring a bit of nature to you. It doesn’t matter where you live. Plant them in your garden, on your allotment, in a pot on your balcony, or even on a sunny window ledge. Seeing your plant develop and bloom can bring about a wonderful sense of achievement and change your environment.
Encourage nurturing and responsibility – growing sunflowers is great to do with children. It helps to develop responsibility by taking care of something by regular watering and making sure it has the right growing conditions. This can also be a good activity for people who experience dementia as it can help to spark memories of once loved activities, provide a focus and conversation topics.
Educational and social – sunflower growing provides lots of opportunities to learn and share experiences. Learning about the cycle of life, maths (measuring your giant)and spending time together. Its a great activity for across the generations, having fun together, sharing experiences and creating memories.
Being in the moment– even the simple act of planting an nurturing seeds can really help to calm and soothe the mind and is a wonderful grounding activity that can reduce stress and aid relaxation.
“Sunshine by Post Campaign”
Now is the perfect time to start planting some sunflower seeds and we are offering you FREE Russian Giant seeds to grow your very own bit of sunshine! We love sunflowers and we want to share the joy they bring. Click here to visit our sister website to get your free seeds and find out more about our campaign to bring a bit of sunshine to you wherever you are.
Essential oils are the life essence of plants. They can be extracted from various parts of plants and used therapeutically to enhance well-being naturally. Essential oils are made up of chemical compounds which have a particular effect on the body systems. Essential oils are potent. Used appropriately essential oils can have a positive effect on the body systems to help treat a range of complaints.
Essential Oil History
In fact, plant oils have been used for thousands of years. Perhaps most famously the Egyptians used aromatic oils and gums in the embalming process. Essential oils have been used throughout history as incense for rituals, cosmetics and perfumes to enhance beauty, for culinary purposes such as preserving food and for medicinal applications to treat illness and disease. Chinese culture has long depended upon herbal medicines and preparations to maintain health and indeed today traditional Chinese medicine sits alongside more modern practices. Patients are able to combine these two approaches when undertaking treatment. Early Vedic literature in India dating from 200BC shows the use of a wide range of aromatic substances including ginger, cinnamon, sandalwood and myrrh to treat people therapeutically.
How do they work
Aromatic or essential oils (their compounds) are found in various parts of the plant. Oils are extracted from flowers, leaves, bark, berries, seeds, roots and wood. Typical compounds include terpenes, esters and alcohols. For example, oils high in terpenes have antiviral, antiseptic and anti-inflamatory properties, oils high in esters have fungicidal and sedative properties and those with high levels of alcohol are antiseptic and antiviral. These compounds or chemicals interact with the body systems and the benefits are numerous.
Chemical properties of essential oils need to be absorbed by the body. The two key routes are through smelling or through the skin. The Olfactory bulb, based in the brain processes our sense of smell and is linked closely to our limbic system a primitive brain structure which processes our emotions. Think about your favourite smell. The chances are you may be sitting there with eyes half closed and a smile or a feeling of contentment when you recall this to yourself. Aroma is incredibly powerful, so when we breathe in the aroma of certain oils they can in fact stimulate or calm our senses, both emotionally and physically.
Absorbing oils through the skin via massage is the other key route to get the natural compounds in to our system. Essential oils (diluted in a carrier oil such as grapeseed) are absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream and taken around the body, eventually to be expired through the respiratory or urinary system. The use of touch through massage can also be very relaxing and therapeutic which helps to enhance the overall feeling of well-being.
Using oils at home for Winter Well-being
You don’t have to be an expert to use essential oils at home. There are however, some safety precautions to be aware of as pure essential oils are very potent and only small amounts are used at a time. Below are some basic guidelines to get you going.
If you are interested in using a larger range of oils than the ones I have listed here then please read up on them. The majority of oils are safe. However, not all oils are good to use directly in the skin, with babies, toddlers and children, pregnant women or individuals who have certain conditions. There is a lot of information out there on oils and it is easy to get hold of. Click here for information on A – Z of oils
Dilute essential oils in a carrier oil such as grapeseed, coconut or olive. If you have a nut allergy DO NOT USE carriers such as almond.
DO NOT eat essential oils. Only follow the guidance of a professional aromatherapist.
Check out any oil you want to use first for safety data and any health precautions.
My Top 5 oils for winter health support
A must have in your well-being kit. One of the few oils you CAN use directly onto your skin. A great wound healer. Keep in the kitchen and put on minor burns. Use as a spot / insect bite healer. A drop on your temples to help stop a headache. Put a few drops on your pillow or burn in an oil burner to aid sleep and relaxation. Use to aid anxiety and quiet the mind. Put a few drops in your bath or make up a massage oil and rub into your arms or feet.
This is a good oil that helps to give an emotional uplift and helps aid recovery after illness as it is a good immune booster. It is an excellent mood enhancer. Helps to treat skin complaints so mix in a fragrance free body cream (great mixed with a bit of lavender) to help brighten and smooth skin. Burn in an oil burner to stimulate motivation and boost energy.
Ooohh one of my favourites. Excellent antiviral properties – burn in an oil burner to help stop germs spreading (great if you have flu, burn in an oil burner in the bedroom). Anti congestant, antibacterial and antiseptic. Great for colds, flu, aches and pains and bronchitis.
Bergamot is a great mood enhancer. It is a gentle uplifter soothing the nerves which helps anxiety and depression. A few drops the bath can help with urinary problems such as cystitis. Mixes well with sweet orange and lavender. A lovely oil that uplifts but won’t over stimulate like other citrus essential oils.
I use this oil at the first signs of a cold or flu. Ravintsara smells very much like Eucalyptus but with more of a camphor tone. You can mix this essential oil in a carrier and rub in on your back, chest or soles of your feet every day and evening to help boost your immune system (big antiviral, antimicrobial and antiseptic properties) and stop colds from taking hold. Burn in a oil burner if you have bronchitis as it has good expectorant properties. Good used as a massage oil to help with muscular aches of pains or put a few drops in the bath.
If you want more information you can contact me here
Many of us spend more time in reflection at this time of year. We are near the end of one year and entering into a new one very soon. Focusing our mind on what we have experienced helps to focus our thoughts – the good, the bad and the ugly as well as what our hopes and dreams are for the year to come. There is power in positive intentions.
Finding a real meaning for Christmas
So, Christmas is nearly upon us. We are bombarded with advertisements that suggest we should be spending our hard-earned money. We should be buying gifts for everybody and everything, treating ourselves to all manner of goodies and having a fabulous time. The sound of catchy christmas music blasts out in shops, cafes and you have to fight your way through the piled high boxes of chocolates and tinsel to get into the supermarket.
Don’t get me wrong, I like this time of year, I loved Christmas as a child. However, as I have got older, I have realised that the Christmas sold to many of us is not a reality. We are sold a fantasy of “happiness” that is achieved through acquiring stuff that we don’t need or necessarily want and the expectations of “conforming” can feel overwhelming.
I do not consider myself a religious person (so maybe I shouldn’t be celebrating at all)! However, it feels to me that Christmas has become so far removed from religion that perhaps instead we should be worshipping the Coca Cola lorry!! After all it was Coca Cola that gave us one of the most iconic images of Father Christmas.
Perhaps it’s the pull of the Pagan in me to celebrate the winter solstice as this feels more real and meaningful. Perhaps I am just getting old and miserable! Or just perhaps I want a change in this World (which becomes smaller by the day) that is positive and all-encompassing for everything that lives on this tiny beautiful mud ball in our incredible Universe.
Commercialism verses human reality
In this World full of MATERIAL EXCESS. The reality is that there are people all over the World who do not have the basics. Shelter, water, food. Children all over the World caught up in wars that have been created by Governments (not people) because they keep control over populations and resources and make huge amounts of money (yes, war is big business). Families separated and displaced, lives torn apart, people pitched against each other, children sleeping in the dark and cold not knowing when they may get a scrap to eat next. Look closer to home and you will find individuals and families under all kinds of stress, vulnerable, isolated or alone. Christmas is not the fantastic time of year we are sold, no, for many is the worst time of year possible.
A useful gift
There’s so much going on in our World at the moment it can feel overwhelming and creates a sense that as an individual there is little we can do to change things. I am realizing that’s just not true! The most important asset we have as individuals is our own power and intention. I have thought about my intention, my own power to make small changes to impact positively on the World and others and I am going to start it this Christmas, as a gift to myself. A useful gift, one I can use every day. A gift that will help me to think wisely, a gift that will help me to question, a gift to make choices, a gift that will give me courage and a gift that will give me confidence to bring about positive change for myself, others and the World.
In reality, I have always had this gift, I just haven’t appreciated it fully. It’s been in the back of the wardrobe along with the dodgy Christmas jumper. Occasionally, like the jumper I have got it out, worn it and then put it back. I felt good wearing it. It made me smile. It made others smile but wearing a Christmas jumper any other time than Christmas does result in strange looks and comments so it went back in the wardrobe!
As from now I am getting my intention out from the back of the wardrobe and I am not going to put it back when the festivities die down. My intention is going to be used on a daily basis. So my first intention is to truly wish you, whoever you are reading this, a safe, a happy and a peace filled day, not just for today or Christmas but every day. Xxxxxxxxx Niki 21/12/2017 xxxxxxxxxxxxX
Intentions do work
I wrote this last year and posted it on my Facebook page. It popped up this week. Re reading it helped me to reflect on what 2018 held for me. I had my goods, my bads and my uglies. What stood out for me however, was that I started my intentions.
I used my gift to myself. It didn’t get put it back in the wardrobe. I used it daily to help me question what I wanted. It helped me to make choices and as I used it I grew my courage to make changes for myself. So Humansense was born and I started writing blogs and the daily dose because we wanted to help and support others. It taken time, that’s okay its a process, I am learning lots about myself along the way. The key for me is that it feels right doing this, it makes me happy doing this.
Intentions do work. When we set our intentions (or goals) and work at them a little at a time things start to happen. We evolve and move forward and we can start to make the changes we want to see and do. So give yourself the best gift you can this year. Your gift of intention and be the change you want to see.
Grief is a very personal journey. There are no wrong or right ways to grieve. Understanding the process of grief can help us support ourselves and others. There are two certainties in life. At some point we will die and so will the people we love. This is a harsh reality that we don’t often think about until we are confronted with it head on. The loss of a loved one or someone who is close to us is a devastating blow to our personal World.
As a therapist I work with individuals who have experienced the loss of a family member or friend. I have also had the honour to work with individuals who are coping with the knowledge that they have a terminal condition and are going to die. On a personal level I have lost close family members and friends, feeling the emotional devastation that comes with saying goodbye and negotiating a way forward whilst trying to find a regained sense of normality.
When we talk about the “bereaved” we mainly use this term in relation to those individuals who have lost someone. However, I think it is important to understand that people who are experiencing an illness or condition that is terminal are also dealing with their own bereavement. They are not only dealing with the impact on their own sense of self but also with the feelings of those close to them.
Understanding the process of grief
The word Grief comes from the Latin words Gravare to make heavy or Gravis which mean weighty. Various theories have been put forward to try to explain the process of grief. Although useful, it is important to remember that grieving is unique to each of us. When we experience a loss or bereavement there are particular emotional responses we can feel. Being aware can help to support ourselves and others through a loss.
A key model that is used to explain grief is the Five stages of grief by Kubler Ross (1969) and is as follows:
1) Denial – Often we can react with numbness and disbelief. We might deny the reality of the situation or loss at some level to avoid the pain or fear.
2) Anger – Intense feelings of anger and resentment commonly arise during this stage. Unwarranted blame may be directed towards other people, systems and organisations.
3) Bargaining – We use bargaining in a psychological effort to avoid the pain, to try to explain in our minds the things that could have been or made a difference.
4) Depression – This phase reflects the reality of the situation and the loss being fully felt, the magnitude of it and it can feel overwhelming.
5) Acceptance – This not about “forgetting” but rather about re–entering reality as it now is. It involves integrating the new reality and emotions and finding a way forward.
These stages are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with a loved one we have lost. They can be useful in helping to understand and identity our emotions and feelings but it is important to recognise that grief doesn’t follow a linear pattern but rather we go back and forth within our grief journey the time period varies between individuals.
Another way of looking at grief is through completing “tasks in mourning”(Worden). These tasks include:
1) Accepting the reality of the loss – This task involves us coming to terms with the end of someone’s life or our own.
2) Work through the pain and grief – Grief is emotionally and physically painful. The task here is for us to “deal with” and “experience” the pain that we naturally want to avoid.
3) Adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing – This task focuses on the bereaved adjusting to life without their loved one and involves both internal and external adjustments.
4) Find an enduring connection whilst moving forward – This final task is about retaining an emotional connection with the deceased whilst continuing with life.
How our grieving process can be affected
Our ability to cope with loss is affected by lots of things. It’s very individual. We won’t all experience the same thing as no two loses are the same and neither are relationships. If we can be mindful about this it can greatly help our understanding around our own and others responses to loss.
Factors such as our own personality type, upbringing and culture (family and society) have an impact on how we view and respond to death and dying. The amount of previous losses we have experienced along with how we cope with them will have an impact. The nature of the relationship or “attachment” is of key importance. Psychological theory places an importance on the development of healthy attachments in providing resilience. Other factors that influence our ability to work through grief include our support systems, financial pressures, current personal health issues and social acceptability of the cause of death or the relationship.
Supporting the bereaved
There are many misconceptions about the grieving process. It can also feel difficult in knowing how to support someone going through a loss or bereavement. Below are some pointers to think about that can help:
Understand and accept we all deal with grief differently. Don’t pressure the bereaved to “move on” or be judgemental about choices they make afterwards.
Listen and encourage the person to talk if they want too. Being able to re tell their story over again helps with processing and the healing process.
Offer practical help where you can. This can be particularly helpful at the start when life feels very chaotic.
Be accepting that emotions are intense so don’t take things personally. Allow the bereaved to show anger or cry without making a judgment of telling them how to respond.
Be aware children grieve too although not necessarily the same as adults. Death can be very confusing for children and they may not cry or show sadness like adults.
Supporting loved ones with a terminal condition
There are some helpful ways in which we can support those we know and love who are coping with terminal conditions.
Appreciate they are not only dealing with their own feelings and emotions but are also dealing with the emotions of those around them.
Understand that a person’s perspective on life can change dramatically. What was once important or had value may change.
Be prepared to talk over wishes and arrangements. Often, this can be a helpful process for all those involved.
What is the difference between formal and informal care?
A person who provides care and assistance to another individual such as a family member, friend or neighbour on an “unpaid” basis is defined as an informal carer. Informal carers provide practical and emotional support to those close to them who may experience disability, chronic illness, mental health needs or recovering from an accident. Formal care is provided by paid workers such as a nurse.
Informal Carers – I am One of 186 million.
At some point in their life 3 out of every 5 people will become an informal carer. So if you are reading this, the chances are you belong to a very special group of people. I say special because you give your love, support and time to caring for someone close to you. This may not be something you chose, it is indeed challenging and hard work both physically and emotionally and it has probably changed your life. Believe me, you are special and should be celebrated by your community and society for the commitment and service you provide. Read on and find out why.
“Informal Carers” – Global Statistics of an unpaid Workforce
It is estimated that there are over 186 million informal carers Worldwide. “Around the globe, carers are the invisible backbone of our health and social care systems, often sacrificing their own physical, financial and psychological well-being in order to provide care for a loved one”. International Alliance of care Organisations 2012
In the UK alone, economically, informal carers save the state £132 billion a year (Carers UK & University of Sheffield 2015). Australian informal carers save their Government $60.2 billion and in America unpaid carers save their states $470 billion (International Alliance of Carer Organisations 2015).
Current available statistics highlight that there are:
6.5 million in the UK (Census2011)
1 million in Canada (Portrait of a Caregiver 2012)
2.7 million in Australia (Carers Australia 2015)
65 million in the US (Care giving in the US 2015)
125 million in Europe (Glendinning et al 2009)
That makes a total of 200.2 million. However, the reality is an estimate and the likely hood is its much higher as statistics for countries such as Russia, China, Latin America and the Indian Continent are not readily available.
Who are informal carers?
An informal carer is a mother or father, wife or husband, a daughter or son, a grandmother, your neighbour, the child that is late for school, the teenager who doesn’t go out at the weekends with their friends, your friend. “They are not limited by culture of country, they are universal, sharing common traits and facing common challenges” (Embracing Carers 2015). The reality is that anyone can become a carer. The role does not discriminate, it doesn’t choose based on your age, gender, educational background, your income of the suitability of your home environment.
Research indicates that women aged 30 – 64 make up the highest group of informal carers Globally . In the UK, 58 percent of caregivers are female and 42 percent are male. In the EU, a typical caregiver is a woman between 45 and 75 years of age (Embracing Carers 2015) and for the US 66% who provide informal care to a spouse or other family member are women (www.carergiver.org).
Although informal caring roles are provided by women there are other groups of carers that are all too often invisible to society.
A young carer is someone who is 18 years old or younger. It is estimated that 7 – 8 % of children in Europe have care giving responsibilities. More alarmingly, the majority of child carers are invisible to their public support systems. This means young carers often suffer silently. The responsibilities of a young carer might include practical tasks such as cooking or shopping, personal care, emotional support, helping to manage finances, looking after siblings or giving medication. That’s a lot of responsibility for someone so young.
Caring responsibilities and Young Carer Well being
Children who find themselves in a caring role often experience mixed feelings about the responsibility they hold. They want to ensure that their loved ones are looked after and may feel worried about telling people that they are carers. Feelings of anger, anxiety and sadness are common place. For some young carers not being able to share their feelings or concerns can lead to depression and anxiety with self harm being used as a way of coping with the overwhelming emotions felt.
The impact on their lives is huge affecting their emotional well-being, confidence, education, friendships, social interactions and future opportunities. In a study by Euro Carers (2017) 68% of young carers experienced bullying at school and a study by Carers Trust in the UK showed that 39% of young carers said that nobody at their school knew they were in a caring role.
Worldwide someone develops dementia every 3 seconds. Currently in the UK 850,000 people are diagnosed with dementia and 5.7 million in the US.
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of illnesses that cause degeneration of brain cells, leading to what is known as cognitive decline. This means that a person with dementia may have difficulties in reasoning, concentration and short-term memory. Dementia can also affect language ability, both in terms of the way a person communicates, but also how much they can understand.
Dementia is progressive in nature, which for most people means that they will get worse over time. As the way the Dementia progresses will be different for each person, no two people will have the same experience of Dementia even if they have the same type and are the same age. (Expert Dementia Carer Training 2009, OLSW)
Caring for a loved one who has dementia poses many challenges. Cognitive decline and personality changes can make communication very difficult, as the condition progresses keeping a loved safe can become more difficult restricting the ability to leave them on their own. Often the carer is on 24 hour alert as many dementia sufferers find it hard to settle, particularly during the night resulting in interrupted of lack of sleep for the carer. This has huge implications for their own personal health and well-being.
As with many unpaid carers they often put their own health need last. A recent survey indicated that more than half (54 %) of unpaid caregivers don’t have time to book or attend their own medical appointments. 47 % have feelings of depression with almost 3 in 5 (57 %) feeling that they needed medical care/support for a mental health condition (e.g., depression, anxiety, stress) due to their role as caregiver. Of these, a quarter had not sought medical help. (Healthcare Support Survey 2015). Many carers identified they were using alcohol and / or smoking to cope with the stress they were feeling and over half felt over all their own health had suffered. Click here for free guide on managing carer stress
Connect with a Carer
“The majority of carers do not feel their role of supporting patients (loved ones) is understood and valued by their community” (friends, neighbours, local shops, healthcare systems, social services and local Government agencies) (Healthcare Support Survey Findings). The chances are you are or have been a carer or you know someone in your community who is an informal carer.
So with all this in mind how can you support an informal carer? Often it is the little things that can make a World of difference you could connect by:-
Listening empathically can help carers feel understood and less isolated and it is someone else to talk too. Often carers are more isolated due to their caring role.
Practical help such helping with some shopping, cutting the grass, putting out rubbish, posting a letter, helping with transport to attend an appointment or any of the 101 things we do to maintain a home on a daily basis generally takes time and time is a precious commodity for an informal carer.
Valuing an informal carer for what they do can be as simple as acknowledging the difficulty and the complexity of their role. Informal carers have many skills they have developed as part of their care role which are often overlooked.
Time for informal carers is precious. Any time you can give to ease their role can be really helpful. From offering to clean their windows to taking around a hot meal to offering an hour here or there can make a huge difference. Don’t forget, this can be good for you too! See it as commiting small acts of kindness. Helping others makes us feel good and in the sharing we can learn new skills, gain new knowledge and create understanding.
Help a carer connect
For simple tips to help carer stress click here to visit the Humansense resource page
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Bananas are a super food that can help to stabilize mood. When I was pregnant with my son I had a craving for bananas, I reckon my consumption of the things helped to increase the share value of the global banana market! I would get through about 6 – 8 of the yellow delights a day. In all honesty they were often the only thing I could stomach that literally didn’t make me want to throw up! 8 years on I still love them and eat a banana or two daily. It got me thinking, what is it about bananas and how are they good for your health?
Banana Boost for body and mind
Eating bananas regularly can have a positive effect on our health and well-being. Bananas give a natural energy boost, although they offer carbohydrates they are low on the glycemic index and are packed full of fibre. They contain plenty of nutrients and anti-oxidants. Bananas contain no fat or sodium and are cholesterol free. Bananas are easy to digest making them an excellent choice for a post exercise snack or an “on the go” boost. They are also good for your heart helping to lower blood pressure. At around 100 calories for a medium-sized banana you can’t go wrong.
Feeling Low? Grab a nana
When it comes to increasing mood bananas can’t be beat. These little beauties contain B6 (potassium) vital for optimum nerve function and Tryptophan that helps the body to produce serotonin. Serotonin is a natural mood stabilizer and when levels are normal we feel happier, more emotionally stable and calmer. A lack of serotonin can lead to depression and anxiety and creates sleeping, eating and digestion problems.
Bananas are the ultimate Green Fast Food
Bananas come in their own packaging that is totally recyclable. As well as making an excellent fertilizer banana peel has a variety of uses that could save you some pennies. So before you compost your peels you might like to think about using the inside of peels to:
Rub on your forehead to help ease a headache
Help stop inflammation and itching from mosquito bites
Clean and polish leather shoes
Rub your teeth to help whiten them
Use on scrapes or burns to lessen the pain, inflammation and prevent infection
The old scientific name for Banana is Musa Sapientum which means “fruit of a wise man”. Musa Sapientum is not used as the official banana name today, however Ancient man certainly knew the value of bananas. The Egyptians depicted them in hieroglyphs and the fruit was probably first cultivated in Southeast Asia. India grows more bananas that any other county with over a 100 million being eaten every year Worldwide.
Classed as a berry that grows on a herb bananas come in a range of varieties including ones with fuzzy skins, stripped with pulp the colour of bright orange sherbet and ones that taste of strawberries when they are cooked. To top it off humans share 50% of their DNA with this super fruit. If that’s not bananas, I don’t know what is!
Ever noticed how good it feels when someone does something nice for you? Ever noticed how it feels to do something nice for someone else? The simple act of promoting kindness no matter how small can have a huge impact. “The Butterfly Effect” comes from the Chaos Theory – whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere. Small ramdon acts of kindness work in the same way and they can be contagious! Giving a small act of kindness it about giving something of ourselves as human beings. It makes both the giver and the recipient feel good or valued. These small acts of kindness actually have a positive effect on our overall well being and the well being of others.
A sense of self
As human beings we are social creatures by nature. Early humans knew the importance of being part of a social group. It provided protection (safety in numbers), the hunting and gathering of food, the sharing of knowledge and skills, all of which helped to increase the chances of suvival. Research shows that being part of a functioning group or community also helps to provide a sense of self, validation and cohesion through the sharing of ideas, skills and tasks.
Many people living in the World today are faced with a variety of social and economic pressures. These can constrain the individual and distort the sense of self. The added pressure and overload of social media delivering tradegy and balanaty can result in leaving us feeling isolated, fearful and inadequate.
Kindness is good for your body and soul
When we commit an act of kindness we trigger the release of Oxcytocin (our love hormone) into our bodies. Oxcytocin has cardioprotective qualities. It releases a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels and therefore helps to lower blood pressure and protect the heart. Oxcytocin is also released when we see others commit act of kindness. In this case Oxcytocin increases our optimism and self esteem which is why when we see an act of kindness we are more likey to carry one out ourselves.
Research carried out by University of Britsh Columbia highlighted a positive impact on anxiety and stress. A group of highly anxious participants committed to make at least 6 acts of kindness a week. Their results showed a general increase in mood and relationship satisfaction and a lowering of anxiety after a month of taking part. In another experiment by Christine Carter at UC Berkeley (Greater Good Science Center) participants reported feeling calmer and less depressed and others fedback they felt more energetic and stronger after they has helped others.
Carrying out small acts of kindness particulary towards others who are struggling in some way increases our feeling of grattitude of what we do have and develops our empathy for others. It can also help us to try new things which aids self confidence and self esteem increasing overall life satisfaction.
Love Yourself Too
Being kind to others is one thing but what about being kind to ourselves? For many people giving “self kindness” is hard when we are focusing on so many pressures and looking after others. It is however important for our personal physical and emotional well being. In a study by Bluth et al 2016called “Making Friends with yourself” in which participants were asked to carry out small acts of kindness for themselves showed that those involved reported experiencing less stress and anxiety and increased their ability to have more self-compassion alongwith improved mood.
Be a butterfly and spread kindness
Its official, being kind is good for you. Whether its being kind to yourself or carrying out a small act towards someone else start spreading those beautiful wings we all have and create some kindness. It will travel a long way!
Ideas for kindness acts
* buy the person behind you in the queue a coffee at the coffee shop
* have a clear out and donate to a charity shop
* switch off your phone and have a relaxing bath or read a book
* smile at the next 3 strangers you meet
* spend 5 minutes talking to your neighbour
* give a friend a hug or why not hug yourself 🙂
* give someone a compliment
* thank someone for what they have done for you
* compliment yourself on an achievement
* buy a homeless person a coffee or a sandwich
* let someone pull out in front of you in a traffic jam
* pick up some litter and put it in a bin – kindness towards our environment
You can find more ideas on random acts of kindness at the web link below
Welcome to my first blog here at Humansense. I have decided to take the plunge and start a blog, something I have wanted to develop for a while but put off because like many of us experience anxiety and fears that stop us from doing things. For me, writing means putting myself out there, my anxieties focus around “what if I get it wrong, what if I am not good enough or worse still what if nobody is actually interested”?!
“But your’e a counsellor” I hear you say. Yes I am, as is Dom but we experience a range of emotions like everyone else. We swear, laugh, get sad, feel anger, we have disagreements, sometimes we argue and we make mistakes. What we aim to do is negotiate our way and learn from our experiences in what can be a beautiful as well as a harsh World.
So, here we are. Taking a risk, like we all do when we start or try something new. We don’t know where it will lead or if it will be a success, they key thing though it that you made the first step, had some faith and took some action. My hope is that we can create writing and resources that you will find interesting and helpful, thought provoking and supportive, uplifting and positive and of course a good dose of humour!
We are looking forward to sharing our experience of being therapists and human beings and our knowledge we have gained so far. Our resources and blogs will cover all sorts of issues from coping with anxiety and stress, managing conflicts, using strategies to manage difficult emotions, relaxation techniques, getting the best out of ourselves and increasing personal happiness!
We also hope our blogs and resources we will be creating will help trainee therapists gain insight into what is important when working as a therapist, caring for self and others in the process and useful strategies for helping others get the best from their sessions.
We hope you will join us in our new adventure and we hope it inspires you to start your own.
Butterflies in your stomach, feeling sick, dry mouth, quickened breathing, sweating? Sound familiar? Well if it does you are not alone.
Anxiety can be felt by anyone. In fact most recent statistics indicate that there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK (Mental Health Foundation 2013) and thats just those officially recorded. Globally the second most prevelent mental health issue was anxiety (depression being the first – will come to that in another blog) Global Burden of Disease 2013. As therapists, anxiety is something we work with a lot. Helping clients understand what anxiety is and how it effects them is important in coping with anxiety. A technique we teach to clients to help manage anxiety is Grounding, its really simple and very effective, a great tool to have up your sleeve.
So what is anxiety?
Basically anxiety is a primeval survival mechanism that alerts us to danger and helps us to deal with emergencies by preparing the body to “fight” or “flee” and is commonly known as the “fight / flight” response. Anxiety is what we can feel when are worried or afraid and is often linked to thoughts about things we think may happen immediately in a situation or things we think might happen in the future. Feeling anxious isn’t nice and for some it can be overwhelming and very frightening. Panic attacks are an extreme anxiety reaction are can be completly debilitating for the person experiencing them.
Triggers and symptoms Anxiety and triggers can be as unique as the person experiencing them. There are however some common triggers that can influence anxiety difficulties – childhood difficulties such as experiencing a loss or separation, past experiences such as bullying or social exclusion. Current life stressors including financial problems, work pressures, exhaustion or being out of work. Physical illness such as living with a serious health condition or mental health problems such a depression can trigger anxiety as can taking certain drugs or medications. Typical symptoms include fast heart rate, sweating and hot flushes, nausea, pins and needles, trouble sleeping, jaw clenching and headaches and other body pains.
Grounding for anxiety Grounding can be done at anytime, anywhere. You can ground standing, sitting or laying down. When you feel yourself becomming anxious – heart racing, feeling hot, racing thoughts………follow the steps described below and tame your anxiety.
1 STOP . You can say Stop in your head, out loud, see a stop sign etc – whatever works for you. You can literally stop what you are doing and stand with both feet on the ground, if you are sitting put both feet on the ground.
2 BREATHE. In through your nose and out through your mouth at a steady pace (if you need too, count in your head to 3 for breaths in and then the same for breaths out). Really focus on the feel and the sound of your breath, take all your focus to it. Do this 3 – 4 times or for as long as you feel you need to. This can be sufficient in helping to calm you down and refocus, however, you can also do step three too.
3 FOCUS YOUR ATTENTION. Keep your breathing steady and focus your mind , try any of the following…
* take your attention to your toes / feet, feel them in your shoes or on the floor, wiggle your toes
* carry a small item with you in your pocket like a pebble or cyrstal and focus your attention on it, the shape, texture, temperature etc
* look around you and focus on something and really study it, like a picture, flowers, a sign. Break them down and focus on the colours, shapes, items etc
* what can you hear? focus on the birds singing or the rain pit pating, or focus on your breath
* as you breathe in and out just allow your self to slow down or have a soothing mantra to use such as ” I am able to “cope” or “This will pass”
Allow yourself to just be in this space for as long as feel comfortable and then gently open your eyes and smile. Great stuff. Now go and enjoy your day!
For more information on anxiety visit our downloads page athumansense.online