6 Ways to Make Everyday Life Easier

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Life, for many of us, has become an obstacle race of challenges we need to survive through rather than a garden of possibilities we thrive in. A lot of it may depend on the circumstances we find ourselves in, but our ability to find order among the chaos is what will define the quality of our life experience and allow us to get back in the driving seat rather than just being hauled around in an overcrowded passenger train. Now that we’ve covered the “why” let’s get down to the burning question “But HOW?!”. Sample from the following buffet of ideas and choose whatever tickles your palate best:

1. Your magic hour: We all have a certain time in the day [or night] when we feel most alert, active, energised and focused – naturally and effortlessly. This is the magic time when the body is at its peak and cheering us on to go for it! Identify your magic hour and plan to address the most challenging tasks of your day during that time, harnessing and optimizing your body and mind’s natural upswing.

2. Pockets of mindfulness: Master Shifu once said to PO – “Remember, Dragon Warrior: Anything is possible when you have inner peace.” Finding this coveted inner peace does not compulsorily need an hour of meditation every morning and evening. Take regular time-outs in your day to devote 10-15 minutes in activities like – focused deep breathing, progressive relaxation, listening to a guided mediation or relaxing sound, creating a ‘safe space’ visual as a refuge and so on. You can begin with simply engaging with your physical senses rather than your thoughts – notice and focus on what you can see, hear, smell, taste and feel – getting out of your mind and connecting with your body can help you feel more centred and provide a breather from the constant mental jabber.

3. Listening to your body: Learn to recognize and mediate your triggers. Our emotions mostly build up gradually rather than appearing at full intensity in a flash. Emotions are experienced in the body, so as we learn to listen to our bodies and recognise when and which emotions are arising – it provides a window to pause and manage your feelings before they take over and wreak havoc with our judgment, rationality and behavior.

4. Rule #6: ‘Don’t take yourself sooo seriously’ – Benjamin Zander, The Art of Possibility. This one doesn’t need a complicated explanation, you know it’s true and you know this is the way to lightness and ease.

5. Find your mantra!: This is that affirmation, quote or word which really hits home for you and helps you shift your mental and emotional state to a healthier one. Unfortunately the majority of our self-talk is negative and toxic, which serves to only make bad situations worse by amplifying the worst case scenarios and self-criticisms. As this tape gets repeated, it starts becoming a reality for your mind. Every time you catch yourself replaying the same track, switch to your positive affirmation instead. Some which work really well for me are – “This too shall pass”, “I’m safe now, it’s okay”, “The best is yet to come”, “I am always taken care of”, “All is well”. Discover yours and keep it as your wallpaper to provide easy reminders.

6. Gratitude: This is a game-changer. Law of Attraction shows that what you focus on grows. So, finding moments of bliss in the midst of seemingly its-not-so-rosy-let’s-get-real lives can be made possible by training yourself to look for what’s good rather than what wrong. Keep a blessings journal, start dinner conversations with what was good today?, challenge yourself to find the gift in every problem and soon enough you’ll find life giving you so much more to grateful for.

Written by:                                                                                                          Mahima Gupta Didwania                                                                            Clinical Psychologist                                                                                  SACAC Counselling

BIBLIOTHERAPY?

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An inscription above the entrance door of a library in the tomb of Ramses II in the ancient city of Thebes read: ψυχῆς ἰατρείον (psychés iatreíon) – ‘place of care for the soul’. In modern Greek, ιατρείο (iatreío) would be translated as ‘doctor’s consulting room’ and ‘ψυχῆς ἰατρείον’ (psychés iatreíon) sounds very like how many therapists might think of their own consulting rooms. It’s perhaps not surprising, therefore, that ‘bibliotherapy’ is steadily becoming a small but flourishing therapeutic field.

‘Bibliotherapy’ is most commonly used to mean one of two things: in its most straightforward sense, it describes medical or psychological professionals ‘prescribing’ specific self-help books to patients who consult them with concerns such as anxiety and depression. This approach is slowly growing in popularity, particularly in countries which have identified excessive or too hasty prescription of psychotropic medication as a public health (and in state-funded healthcare systems, budgetary) concern. As British psychotherapist and author Philippa Perry has pointed out, a good self-help book is better than a bad therapist, and some excellent self-help books do exist, along with very many bad ones. (Perry also points out that a bad self-help book is worst of all and doesn’t come with a professional code of ethics, minimum quality standards, or a complaints procedure.)

The second, deeper, approach to bibliotherapy is using the reading of fiction, especially literary fiction, as a powerful psychological intervention in its own right. Research from the University of Sussex, UK, shows that reading is a more effective way of overcoming stress than listening to music or taking a walk. Within 6 minutes of reading silently, study participants’ heart rates slowed and tension in their muscles eased by up to 68% – findings similar to those one might find in participants practicing meditation. In 2013, a study published in the prestigious journal ‘Science’ found that reading literary fiction (rather than popular fiction or literary nonfiction) improved participants’ results on tests that measured social perception and empathy, qualities crucial to the ability to build strong and healthy relationships with others, and to navigating all interpersonal interactions, professional and personal.

From the literary side, the eminent Yale literary critic Harold Bloom is author of a New York Times bestselling book, ‘Shakespeare and the Invention of the Human’, which credits Shakespeare with the invention of the modern human personality. The fact that Shakespeare’s plays continue to be widely watched and read since their first performances in London in the 16th century, and are cherished across diverse cultures, despite the difficult, archaic language, and melodramatic, contrived plots, reflects Shakespeare’s genius in accurately – and beautifully – describing the interior emotional states of his characters. We recognize something of ourselves and our experience – something human – irrespective of the distance in time and culture from Elizabethan England.

For those interested to explore literary fiction from a therapeutic perspective, The Novel Cure: an A-Z of Literary Remedies, by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin (Canongate) is a good place to start. I also warmly recommend a wonderful (and free) online resource produced by ReLit, the Bibliotherapy Foundation, an organization dedicated to the complementary treatment of stress, anxiety and other conditions through mindful reading. The course explores how poems, plays and novels can help us understand and cope with times of deep emotional strain. It focuses on six topics: stress; heartbreak; bereavement; trauma; depression and bipolar disorder; and ageing and dementia.http://www.relit.org.uk/what-we-do/online-course

Ramses II is better known – in the literary sphere, at least – as Ozymandias, subject of Shelley’s famous sonnet:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

The poem is a parable about the transience of worldly prestige and power, the existential pointlessness of narcissism. Tending our souls is better for us, our relationships, and the world, and the inscription on the ancient library at Thebes suggests that Ramses/Ozymandias would recommend we start with a book.

Written by:                                                                                                    Laura Timms                                                                                        Psychotherapist and Coach                                                                                SACAC Counselling