Cultivating Playfulness

The capacity to be playful is as key in the development of children as in adults. Being playful is not just about being light-hearted, avoiding difficult feelings and looking for fun. It is about the ability to interpret, to problem- solve and to find meaning in experiences. Playfulness makes an individual more likely to engage in a situation or environment.

The Key Research Findings highlight the value of cultural learning to develop a capacity to play for children (2017, Cultural Learning Alliance)

  1. Taking part in arts activities can increase cognitive ability by 17%
  2. Learning through arts and culture can help children achieve in Maths and English
  3. Learning through arts and culture develops skills and behaviour that lead children to do better in school
  4. Students who take part in arts activities at school are three times more likely to get a degree
  5. The employability of students who study arts subjects is higher and they are more likely to stay in employment
  6. Students who engage in the arts at school are twice as likely to volunteer
  7. Students who engage in the arts at school are 20% more likely to vote as young adults
  8. The arts can help young people to turn their lives around: young offenders who take part in arts activities are 18% less likely to re-offend
  9. Children who take part in arts activities at home during their early years are ahead in reading and Maths at age nine
  10. Who take part in the arts are 38% more likely to report good health

I wonder how playfulness in adults overlaps in many ways with those for children, including being creative , using humor to think of things that happen to us, motivation to get things done, being able to develop positive affect. I believe that coming to psychotherapy and counselling can develop adults’ capacity to being playful and reduce their stress.

 

Written by

Saveria Cristofari
PGDip (MBACP), MBA
Counsellor & Psychotherapist

TCK Children: Third Culture Kids

Children from Europe, the US and Canada can spend part of their school years in International Schools in SE Asia. Mostly the schools are very good, and those of us who grew up monoculturally can envy them their broader experiences, their bilingualism, their citizenship of the world. But it’s not always easy for them.

I’ve only just come across the term TCK’s. A moving account of them is given in Nina Sichel’s collections Writing Out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids (2011). TCK’s often feel powerless as their families decide to relocate, and they lose their sense of belonging, recognition and connection. In spite of the high quality of their new schools, they may experience loss, which may be hard for their parents and teachers to recognize.

They may not readily come to the attention of the school counsellor; they may appear to be adjusting to their new school world, or be struggling to make friends and join the peers, or be angry and disruptive. I realized met a few: one boy couldn’t express himself aloud for months and even after 2 years was still struggling to maintain focus in some classes, after arriving from London at 5½. Another extremely bright boy from Korea missed his home culture so much it was worth failing in Singapore to be allowed to return home.

International schools are used to the problems of relocation their kids experience and many prepare them well for change and can recognize the problems. But schools in the home country may be clueless. They are just not aware of what the child may be struggling with and have no experience of helping. I have heard of one of two like that, too.

If a TCK comes your way, maybe besides checking out any problems, you can encourage him just to talk, and share his story. She may need time just to open up and then perhaps to mourn the losses she hasn’t been allowed to acknowledge. Singapore is a wonderful place but its not somewhere everyone can easily feel at home.

 

Written by

Dr Tim Bunn
EdD, MSc, BA (Hons), PGCE
Consultant Educational Psychologist

The Importance of Connection

 

As the rates of depression and anxiety appear to be rising around the world, attention is starting to focus more on the mismatch between modern society and our basic human needs. An example is the recently released book Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari (2018). One of the causes identified by Hari is disconnection from other people, resulting in feelings of loneliness.

Loneliness is a subjective unpleasant feeling arising from a discrepancy between people’s desired and actual levels of meaningful social relationships. It is important to emphasise that it is meaningful social relationships that makes the difference, that is you need to feel that you are sharing something with the other person that is meaningful to both of you. A Lifeline survey found for example that 60% of Australians feel lonely, despite many of them living with a partner or family member. Prolonged loneliness has been demonstrated to predict a range of poor health outcomes, including increased stress, shorter life expectancy and the onset of anxiety and depression.

To understand why loneliness has such a significant impact on our health, we need to consider our evolutionary history. Human beings first lived in small hunter-gatherer tribes. They survived in their harsh environment by working together. Being separated from the group put these humans in great danger, from predators, lack of shelter etc. So, even today, when we are disconnected from others, the unpleasantness we feel represents an urgent signal from your brain to motivate you to reconnect to the group. Our brain treats disconnection as a threat to survival. However, when reconnection is not easy or not possible, people can remain in this uncomfortable loneliness and develop suspicion of social contact, becoming afraid of what they actually need the most.

There are many aspects of the modern world that have resulted in increased loneliness and a sense of reduced community. Geographical distance between people and families has increased as they travel for a job opportunity or opt for accommodation they can afford, with more people living alone and working longer hours. Social institutions such as clubs, workplaces or the church have become a less common aspect of people’s lives. While social media can lead to some increase in social contact, it does not replace the benefits of face-to-face contact. As such, it is argued by researchers such as Hari that the world we now live in does not take into account our most basic human needs for connection and belonging.

It is important for us all to consider ways we can build community in our modern world. We can have regular family meals where technology is switched off. We can come together to do something as a group, such as joining a sports team, choir, volunteer or language group, or just meeting regularly for coffee. We can check out Meetup.com to find people with common interests. When we are feeling low, we can try do something for someone else. And if you find that anxiety and depression is getting in the way of you reaching out to connect, you can seek help from a mental health practitioner.

 

Written by

Dr Thea Longman
DClinPsych/MSc, BPsych (Hons)
Registered Clinical Psychologist

What is the “INNER CHILD”

IC healWho we are today – our personality, the way we think, perceive, react, feel about people, situations, our world and ourselves is shaped by the experiences we have had – it’s a cumulation. Many times in life, the emotional impact of an experience can exceed our ability to cope with it at the moment – leaving it un-processed, un-integrated, unhealed – forming an “inner child” (IC) and contributing to the formation of negative beliefs, dysfunctional coping mechanisms and potentially warped understanding of ourselves or our relationships, influencing and often shaping core feelings like those of self-worth and being loved/accepted.

Such experiences can then stay in our psyche as raw memories/emotions which are easily triggered by similar circumstances and influence us as adults in how we experience/cope with various stressors – as an adult or a child.

How many of us truly feel like we have the maturity and healthy emotional skills expected of someone at our current age when we are faced with emotionally triggering times? How often do we feel helpless, stuck, scared or abandoned and overreact or handle situations inappropriately when we should have and perhaps do ‘know better’? These feelings and reactions reflect the existence and influence of unhealed inner child experiences. All of us have multiple such experiences of varying intensities and impacts which contribute to the unique personality we have. An inner child can be of any age and the experience does not necessarily belong to early childhood only.

Inner child therapy refers to the field of working with core memories contributing to a person’s current and often long-standing patterns of thoughts, feelings and responses. Unresolved negative experiences are often the foundation of the dysfunctional/unhealthy ways of understanding and interacting with our inner and outer worlds – of how we feel about ourselves, our relationships and life situations even though rationally we often know better. We cannot change our history but we can change the impact of history by working through, repairing and healing those wounds therapeutically – helping people process, release and let go of the past, fulfil unmet needs and step into a healthier present self. IC healing is an essential element of core issue work across many therapeutic modalities like Schema therapy, Hypnotherapy, Regression, Tapping techniques (EFT) and so on, each with its own process leading to the goal of wholeness, integration and freedom from past baggage.

 

Written by:

Mahima Gupta Didwania 
(M.A., MSPS, C.Ht., CRT)
Registered Clinical Psychologist (SRP), EFT Trainer, 
Integrated Clinical Hypnotherapist, 
Certified Regression Therapist (EARTh), 
Advanced EFT Practitioner (AAMET), 
Breakthrough Coach, 
Matrix Re-imprinting & NLP Practitioner

Food for Fuel

In this era, many of us find that we’re always on the go and we eat for convenience more than for nutrition and health. The word “stress” has become the norm in our daily vocabulary. So when do we eat for health, fuel, emotional eating or to eat for eating’s sake?

Daily stresses can induce an increase in cortisol levels; which can lead to food cravings – many tend to be carbs and sugar according to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. The more we binge on these, the worse our mood can get. So instead of always reaching for comfort food to get that quick fix; plan for ingredients in meals and snacks that will actually provide balance and tranquility to your well-being as a whole. And because of the nutrients and vitamins they deliver and the consistent source of energy they provide you, it will get you through the weeks and months feeling lighter and more vitalized.

Food Best for Stress

  • Green Leafy Vegetables – (rich in folate – produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters: serotonin & dopamine)
  • Organic Turkey – (a good source of tryptophan – an amino acid that converts into serotonin)
  • Pumpkin seeds, nuts & free-range organic eggs are also good sources of protein & tryptophan
  • Fermented Food – Healthy gut flora is said to have a correlational impact on brain health. I.e. probiotic – Lactobacillus rhamnosus was discovered to have a significant effect on GABA in particular neural regions & decreased corticosterone; which led to a reduction in anxiety & depressive symptomatology
  • Avocados – are high in Vitamin B, lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin E & more folate than any other fruit
  • Berries – high in antioxidants & vitamin C; help to lower blood pressure & cortisol amongst other good things
  • Garlic – packed with powerful antioxidants & helps to neutralize free radicals; linked to strengthening the immune system, fending off heart disease & even the flu.
  • Dark chocolate – Heart healthy food (contains high levels of 2 powerful antioxidants – polyphenols & flavonols); linked to mood stabilization & lowering blood pressure.
  • Grass-fed beef – not only better for the planet but high in antioxidants, Vitamin C, E & beta carotene; antibiotic & hormone free; lower in fat & 2-4 times higher in omega 3s.

A healthy diet is beneficial for both physical and mental health. I love this saying “like an expensive car, your brain functions best when fed expensive fuel” so invest in a healthy diet for a healthy mind.

Written by

Dr Felicia Neo
PhD (Clinical Psychology & Neuroscience)
PGDip (Clinical Psychology)
BA (Psych & Mass Communications)
Clinical Psychologist, Neuroscientist