How to take a Moment for Yourself

During our daily life we can become so caught up in what we are doing or what we are supposed to be doing, that we can lose sight of the essence of who we really are. We can begin to define ourselves solely by our roles as employee, employer, husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, friend, job-seeker, student etc. and these roles can pre-occupy us. We can loose sight of the fact that beneath all of these various roles remains  a precious  and unique person.  An amazing truth is that for each of us  there never has been and  never will  be an exact replica!

Getting into the habit of taking a moment each day to acknowledge and appreciate our unique self, apart from our roles,  is an enrichiching and worthwhile experience.  It is a way for us  to develop and grow  our capacity for compassion towards ourselves and others. It helps us to reflect upon our unique value and this simple act of  self-reflection can actually enhance our performance in our many roles.

Whilst taking a moment for ourselves is to be recommended as a nurturing daily practice, it can be of particular benefit when we are experiencing great difficulties, conflict or stress in our  lives. When we feel upset about something that has or has not happened or when we`re being hard on ourselves because we`ve made a mistake, this simple practice of givng ourself permission to  take a moment, in the midst of our struggles, can be very supportive indeed. It is also beneficial in times of anxiety – before an interview or exam for example.

When we connect to our self in this simple way it can make us feel validated and stronger, almost as though we are our own best friend. We begin to  feel more regulated somehow as we create an experience of greater connection to ourself and others. It can slow down the negative thoughts that may  be racing around in our mind and provide some space for alternative more compassionate thoughts to enter.

You may be surprised to find that the practice of taking a moment needs to be focused initially on our physical selves.  This is because the mind and the body are inextricably linked – if one is stressed, the other is too. It is much easier to calm the mind when the body is relaxed,  as there is a constant feedback loop between the two and that`s why it needs to start with the body.

How to Take a Moment

It doesnt matter when or where, however it is best done sitting or standing.

Firstly do a  Body Scan – notice your body from head to toe – notice where you are holding tension/tightness in your muscles –  then consciously release that tension by  dropping your shoulders, unclenching your hands and toes, relaxing  your face and  jaw.

Then commence Abdominal Breathing – breath in for the count of 4 through your nose and out for the count of 7 through your mouth – pushing your abdomen out on the out breath. This reduces the production of adrenaline, which is a speed – up hormone. Three or four of these breaths will do.

If you like you can also say a Mantra to yourself  – a  soothing statement   –  something like  “I`m ok and it`s ok to be ok”.

That`s all you have to do – so easy. The only difficult bit is giving yourself permission to  do  it daily.  Enjoy your moment!

Written By Dr Anita Corfe

CPsychol. DCPsych., BSc (Hons)

Reg.Psychol. PsSl., AFBPSs., EAP.

Counselling Psychologist & Integrative Psychotherapist

My Funny Valentine

In my years of practice as a marriage and family therapist, I have seen numerous clients for pre-marital counseling. When the time comes to discuss expectations of married life, more often than not,  “having sense of humor” would surface as one of the characteristics that engaged couple say they hope their partner has and maintains in a marriage. Researchers also showed that a good sense of humor is one of the most sought-out characteristics in a romantic partner (Cann, Calhoun, & Banks, 1997; Bressler & Balshine, 2006). Interestingly, however, I also have met many clients who cited that their partner’s sense of humour or the way they handle situations with humor causes issues in their relationship. So, is sense of humor useful in marital relationship?

Study about humour and its psychological functions has been a long interest in the field of psychology. Freud took a special interest in humour and wrote all about his thoughts in his book “Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious”, first published in 1905. According to Freud, jokes and humour emerge when our conscious mind is allowed the expression of thoughts that society usually suppress or forbids. Similarly, Avner Ziv, a Professor at Tel Aviv University, explains that in addition to giving a way for taboo thoughts to have a more socially acceptable expressions, humour could also serve as a social adhesive, releasing social and political tension, provide defense against fear and anxiety and an opportunity for our intellectual mind to express slightly illogical thought in a safe environment.

In marriage life there will be challenges that come both from outside of the couple and from within. Considering that humour could contribute to relational maintenance (Haas & Stafford, 2005), has the potential to mitigate conflict (Bippus, 2003), and can generate playful and positive emotions (Aune & Wong, 2002), why in some couples does the use of humour not yield positive result?

The answer might be due to the different styles of humour. Rod Martin researched humour and compiled a Humor Styles Questionnaire in 2003.  He found that there are four styles of humour: affiliative, aggressive, self-enhancing humour and self-defeating humour. Affiliative humour involves telling jokes about things that everyone might find funny.  The goal is to use humour to bring people together, to find the humour in everyday life, to create a sense of togetherness, happiness, and well-being.  Aggressive humour involves put-downs or insults targeted toward individuals. Included in this type of humour are sarcasm, teasing, ridicule, or derisive action. Self-enhancing humour is being able to laugh at ourselves, such as making a joke when something bad has happened to us: trying to find the humour in everyday situations, and making ourselves the target of the humour in a good-natured way. This is related to a healthy approach to coping with stress. Self-defeating humour, on the other hand, is where we put ourselves down in an aggressive or “poor me” fashion. This sometimes used as a way to avoid attacks by making oneself the butt of jokes before others put us down.

Further research on humour in marital relationship reported by Saraglou, Lacour & Demeure in 2010 stated that marital instability and dissatisfaction among divorced people seems to stem from the fact that the couples: 1) Did not use positive, constructive humour enough; 2) use a lot of antisocial (aggressive and earthy) humour (especially men); 3) have different interpersonal warmth or hostility when using humour; 4) misperceive men-women differences in the use of positive humour; and 5) use a lot of self-disparaging humour (especially women).

In short, the positive effects of humour depend on which style (and how) humour is used in a relationship. The more positive styles of humour (affiliative and self-enhancing) contributed positively to the marital relation but the more negative styles of humour (aggressive and self-defeating) contributed negatively. For example, the effects of sarcasm might seem positive when the couple is applying it toward something outside of the relationship. This way, sarcasm might create “inside jokes” that bond the couple together “against the world”. But when used toward each other, its use could produce negative results because it has more potential of being misinterpreted and hurting the partner’s feelings.

Written By Natalia Indrasari
MA (Psychoanalytic Studies) MS (Counselling)
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
AAMFT Clinical member

 

Finding the Best Fit Therapist

 

 

Making the choice to engage in therapy can feel daunting and scary. Sometimes this decision is made because a personal crisis has occurred, other times it occurs because there have been niggling patterns of behavior, moods or coping strategies that have been problematic for some time.  Regardless of the reason, finding a therapist that best suits your needs can result in a therapeutic relationship that is at once, supportive, challenging and rewarding.  Giving yourself permission to seek support and spend time working on your emotional health is a gift that hopefully you will reap the benefits of for many years, therefore it is important that to consider a few things that may enhance this process.

As a therapist it is a privilege to be trusted with the intimate thoughts and feelings of clients, and this trust must be treated with utmost respect and care.  Some research has shown that the therapeutic relationship alone is the biggest indicator of successful outcomes in therapy so making the right choice can be hugely beneficial. Below are some things that you may like to consider. Only some of these suggestions may be important to you and they are designed for the individual to contemplate, not as rules.

  1. Socio-cultural factors – Each person will have a different idea about what they want from a therapist.  You may want to contemplate if it is important for you to have someone of a similar cultural background who understands the nuances associated with it, sometimes this alignment can be a comfort.  Other factors such as age or gender may also be salient to you, i.e. would you be more comfortable talking with an age group peer or would prefer someone of an older generation, is it critical for you to have a therapist of the same gender?
  2. Training and Therapy Offered – Most psychologists and counsellors will at least have a postgraduate qualification, in addition to this you may want to look at the types of therapies they have trained in and their previous work history.  For example some therapies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy and Mindfulness are excellent for assisting with present day functioning and problems.  Other therapies such as Schema Therapy, Family Systems Therapy and Psychotherapy are beneficial in assisting clients with pattern behaviours and concerns that have their origins in childhood.  You may also be after specialist counselling in grief, addiction, trauma or relationships. You should be able to find out most of this information from a therapist’s bio or when phoning to book an appointment.  Please note that all therapists are trained to provide supportive, non-directive therapy regardless of the presenting issue.  
  3. Availability – regard the therapist’s availability, do you require someone who has appointments after hours or are you flexible? Attending appointments at a time when you don’t have to rush off to work or straight to the children can allow you some quiet time for contemplation following the session. Consistent appointment availability weekly or biweekly should also be factored in.
  4. What to expect – regardless of whom you choose as your therapist, a good therapy session provides the opportunity for you to express your emotions, problems and concerns in a non-threatening way and for these to be heard and attended to in a non-judgemental, confidential space. Therapy provides the opportunity to be supported and feel validated and be assisted in processing and moving forward in a way that makes sense to you.  Sometimes this can initially feel draining and emotionally painful but throughout the process hopefully it will also feel empowering and strengthening.  You also have the right to switch therapists if the first one you try does not feel like a good fit for you.  We are all human and what one person connects to in another is not necessarily the same as the next person.  

There is no set formula or absolute linear pathway through therapy but committing to the process of attending to your emotional health can have wonderful repercussions for self-awareness, interpersonal relationships, your resilience and emotional stability.  Having sat in both chairs as a therapist and a client and I can say that if you are contemplating seeking support it is unlikely that you will be sorry about taking the leap.  Making that first appointment can be the most difficult part.  Hopefully the above suggestions may make the process easier and you have a positive therapeutic experience.

Written by

Dr Rachel Upperton

B.A. Psych (Hons) PhD

Registered Psychologist

Holiday Traditions And Everyday Rituals As Anchors

“Holiday traditions are essentially ritualistic behaviors that nurture us and our relationships”. Michelle L. Brennan, Psy.D.

Can you remember a holiday tradition that you enjoyed as a child?

What experiences and feelings does it evoke for you?

I remember the anticipation of preparing the table for Christmas Eve dinner and how happy I felt dancing with my family afterwards.

Through previously loved activities in the midst of family and community, holiday traditions provide us with a sense of safety and connection. They become positive emotional anchors in our lives.

The fact that we live in a multicultural society provide us with an opportunity to keep our traditions, while valuing the traditions of others. We learn about flexibility as we allow others’ rituals to blend in with our own. In my case, I enjoy the coming of the Lunar New Year as another occasion to celebrate and re-start the Solar New Year.

How about using what we know about holiday traditions to develop everyday rituals that could be helpful this New Year?

  • Which areas? Think about which area of your life might benefit from a reminder or ritual, maybe it is self-care, your relationship with your spouse or a particular family member, your family as a whole…
  • What activities? Think about what activities would help to improve that particular area if they were repeated on a regular basis. From the previous examples, it could be a yoga class, a couple’s date or a family movie night.
  • When? Think about your preferred timing and frequency of these activities.
  • How? Think about how you are going to realistically include these new rituals in your life. Also, if it involves other people, how to present it to them.

Anchors for new beginnings:

As we usher in the Chinese New Year, we have another chance for a new beginning. Our new everyday rituals will serve as anchors, reminding us of our intentions and connections, and nurturing us in the process.

“…to the soul, the most minute details and the most ordinary activities, carried out with mindfulness and art, have an effect far beyond their apparent insignificance.”

Thomas Moore, “Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday life”.

Written by Yana Ricart
SAC Registered Counsellor (Singapore)
MSc(Counselling), MSFP, Diploma(Psychotherapy), Grad Cert(Counselling)
Grad Cert (Expressive Therapies), Diploma (Yoga), BSc(Hons)