Health, happiness and self-disciplined goals

Blog Post No. 157

23rd October 2017

Copyright (c) Dr Jim Byrne, 2017

Dr Jim’s Blog: Health and happiness are the most important goals in (a moral) life

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Introduction

It’s been quite a while since I posted a blog, because I’ve been extremely busy.  I am still very busy, finishing off the writing of a new book, but I thought it was about time I shared some ideas with the world.  The main theme of this blog is health and self-healing, using food and physical exercise.

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Writing about diet and exercise for mood control

Front cover, 8For the past few weeks, Renata and I have been writing our book which is titled, How to control your anger, anxiety and depression, using nutrition and physical activity.  We have finished writing the five sections, and I am working on constructing a comprehensive index for the back of the book, to make it optimally user-friendly, as a resource.

Several days ago I constructed the index section on diet and nutrition, and type of diets.  And, by finishing time last Friday, 20th, I had just completed a section on Essential fatty acids (EFAs). And today, Monday 23rd, I will begin to work on the index entries for the section on physical exercise.

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Self-healing

Last Thursday, I turned my body, suddenly, while leaving my feet relatively stationary, and pulled a muscle in my back.  Did I run to the doctor?  No!  Did I get some ‘painkillers’ from the chemist?  No!

Why did I not go to the doctor?  Because the doctor would have simply recommended “painkillers”!

Why did I not buy my own painkillers from the chemist?  Because most of the painkillers used today are what are called NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). And the problem with NSAIDs is that they cause ‘leaky gut syndrome’, which not only allows whole molecules of food to enter the bloodstream, and trigger various forms of inflammation in the body (paradox of paradoxes!), but they also compromise the blood/brain barrier, which can precipitate mood disturbances!

So, what did I do with my terrible back pain?  I got out my copy of ‘Body in Action’, by Sarah Key, and did five of her exercises for improving the functioning of the muscles and joints in the lower back.  (I’ve done this several times in the past, and I know it always works).

I did the exercises on Thursday and Friday, and by Saturday the back pain had gone – completely!

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Sharpening the saw

Rest and recuperation are very important parts of my self-management of health program.  So, on Saturday afternoon, and Sunday afternoon, I had a siesta (of three hours each time).  I had been feeling tired because of overworking on the index of our new book on how to control anger, anxiety and depression, using diet and exercise systems.

CreasespaceCover8, diet-nutrition.jpg

I also had a restful evening with Renata, and I was in bed by 9.45pm.

By 5.45am today (Monday 23rd Oct) I was fully rested, and so I got up and made my breakfast.  A solid bowl of chunky salad.

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Food for health and mood control

Book-cover-frontI chopped up the following ingredients into small chunks, of perhaps 3 or 4 mm at the widest point:

3 oz of red cabbage; 6 oz of cucumber; 1 spring onion; 1 organic carrot; half an organic apple; and put them into a soup bowl.

(See the Appendix on Diet and Nutrition, in our book: Holistic Counselling in Practice.***)

Then, I added a teaspoon of Maca powder; a dessertspoon of ground flaxseed; two dessertspoon’s of mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, ???), ten almonds, three walnuts, four hazelnuts; ten blueberries; 2 ozs of cooked beetroot (diced); two small tomatoes (halved); and half a kiwi fruit (diced).

I then added some brown rice miso, and some sauerkraut.

After consuming that breakfast, I meditated for 30 minutes.

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Physical exercise for health and strength and mood control

Standing pose 2Let me now describe the exercises that I went on to do, after meditating:

Twenty minutes of Chi Kung exercises.

Followed by a couple of minutes of ‘The plank’ exercise, which is like ‘stationary press-ups’: https://youtu.be/kiA9j-dR0oM

Then I did my own press-ups and sit backs, for about 5 or 6 minutes.

I then moved on to do fifteen minutes of my old Judo Club calisthenics (or whole body warm up exercise), which combine strength training, stretching of muscles, and aerobic exercise, all in one.

Then ten minutes of Zhan Zhuang (pronounced Jam Jong, and meaning ‘Standing like a tree’).  These are body poses which work on our postural muscles, affecting strength and speed and balance. They create a calm and happy mental state.  And they also relax the body and establish whole-body connection.

powerspinFinally I did some strength training using the Powerspin rotator, to build arm, shoulder and upper body strength.

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Reflections

This is clearly a time-consuming start to the day, compared with a bowl of cornflakes, a cup of coffee, and a brisk scratching of the head!

So why do I do it?

Because, I value my health above all things.  Without my physical health, I am unlikely to be happy.  And I am unlikely to be emotionally stable.

The people who do the least exercise, and who eat the worst diets, have the worst physical and mental health outcomes. (I have not seen a general medical practitioner for more than twenty-five years! And I am not about to start now!)

Most people leave their health (physical and mental) to chance, and to the vague belief that there are people who can “fix them up” when they fall apart.  Sadly this myth is totally misleading.  Once you’ve ruined your health – from sedentary lifestyle, poor sleep, and inadequate diet (such as one based on junk food, or an unbalanced diet, or too much alcohol [over the government limit], caffeine, sugary foods, gluten, and other toxic substances) – it is then ruined!  And a ruined body-brain is a burden to haul through life!

It takes self-discipline to get on a good diet, and to begin to do regular physical exercise, and to go to bed and have eight hours sleep, without mobile phones or laptops or tablets, and so on.  But the alternative to developing that self-discipline is a life ruined through serious illness, emotional distress, and early death.

Some people will argue with me, and insist that there are some things called “medicines” (and “surgeries”) which can be used to resuscitate their body-brain-mind once they have allowed it to fall into ill-health. The editors of What Doctors Don’t Tell You, strongly disagree with that fantasy!  See the article titled ‘Don’t trust me (I’m Big Pharma).***

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POSTSCRIPT: Of course, it takes time to build up expertise in ‘extreme self-care’; and it’s a good idea to do that one step at a time.  Gradually, over a period of time, this will build up into significant changes, and huge improvements in health and happiness.  And you don’t ever have to adopt the kind of ‘monkish’ approach that suits me.  Some simple changes in what you eat, and how you exercise your body (brisk walking for 30 minutes per day is enough!), will make a huge difference over time.  You can find out more about how to begin these small, easy steps in our book: How to control your anger, anxiety and depression, using nutrition and physical activity.

honetpieIf you want me to help you to figure out how to live a happier, healthier, more emotionally buoyant life, then please contact me:

drjwbyrne@gmail.com

Telephone: 01422 843 629 (inside the UK)

or 44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)

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I hope you have a very happy and healthy life!

Best wishes,

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: drjwbyrne@gmail.com

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A self-coaching exercise: Happiness audit

Blog Post No. 52

25th August 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

A Self-coaching exercise which can improve the quality of your life:

The “Haversack and Balloons” exercise

Introduction

In this blog I am going to introduce you to an exercise that you can do, which is like a visual ‘balance sheet’ of your life at the moment.  It will help you to see if you need to bring more happiness into your daily life!  And it will help to balance self-support against the pressures of life.

I came across this exercise many years ago and found it to be really helpful for lots of people – in particular with students on my stress management courses and counselling courses. It’s a very simple and effective way of checking out whether you have a good balance of pleasurable and nourishing things in your life at the moment.  It’s important to watch that balance, as you need adequate resources to keep you going as you do all those daily tasks at work and/or at home.

Method

Print off a copy of this four-step exercise – shown in green – and follow the simple instructions:

STEP 1: Burdens and responsibilities (tasks, etc)

Write in the white spaces on the haversack those things that weigh you down at the moment:

Haversack image

(If you need to continue on a separate sheet of paper, then please do so.)

STEP 2: List the things that lift you up or raise your spirits

In each of the balloons, write in one thing which makes you feel good, and enriches your life, and keeps you happy on a daily basis.

Ballons image

(Again, if you need to continue on a separate sheet of paper, then please do so.)

STEP 3: Review

Weigh up your stressors and the supports (or balloons and burdens)

As you look at the two different aspects of your life at the moment, (your haversack and your balloons), see what proportion of problems and challenges you have weighing you down, and what proportion of daily pleasures and uplifting experiences you have filled in.

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STEP 4: Your action plan

For a happy and contented life, you need to make sure that you have a roughly equal balance of pressures and supports – or challenges and pleasures.

Your balloons will keep you going (and sane) as you handle all the aggravations life throws at you!

So decide what action you might need to take to increase your ‘daily balloons’ or reduce some of your mental burdens or pressures.

Make a list and commit to take action.

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Review

Reviewing this exercise carefully will show you immediately if you have lots of problems weighing you down, like an invisible knapsack that you are carrying round with you all the time.

It will also show the number of daily pleasures or supports which you have – (your balloons) – to balance those problems out. This balance does affect the quality of your life.

Of course, too little pressure and strain can be almost as bad as too much. You could (theoretically) be having lots of self-nourishing experiences and pleasures, but  too little in the way of challenges to keep you mentally engaged in life, and stimulated. Boredom can be stressful.  We feel happiest when we experience ‘flow’, which means that the challenges in our lives are balanced by our coping capacity.

A valuable way to do this exercise is to share what you have put on your diagrams with a trusted friend or colleague, and if you take turns to talk about your lists, you will both benefit from expressing your current problems, and finding out if you are both taking care of yourselves by having daily pleasures and supports to balance the work you are doing.

Your balloons

As explained above, your ‘balloons’ are the daily experiences which keep you happy and motivated, and supported, either outside of work, or within the work situation.  A helpful list of balloons might include: Solid breakfast; slow and relaxing journey to work; planned daily activities so work load is balanced; tea break or dinner break with friends or work colleagues whose company you enjoy; sipping water at fifteen minute intervals during the day; avoiding sedentary lifestyle, which means get up and move around ever fifty minutes or so; daily physical exercise; listen to relaxing music; dance; write out your problems every day; and so on; and so forth.

Let’s take one example:

Music as a daily ‘Balloon’

Book-cover

Caroline Webb, in her book ‘How to have a good day’ (2016) describes how one doctor (Rakesh) uses music as an essential strategy (one of his daily ‘balloons’) to keep him going when he is on duty in the Emergency Room of the hospital where he works. Describing his job, Rakesh told her:

“You’re constantly handling problems. You don’t have much time, and you never stop moving. In one hour you’re probably making perhaps one hundred or two hundred decisions: which tests to order, where to send a patient, and what interventions are needed. You’re on different shifts – sometimes morning, sometimes nights. A 12 hour shift can turn into a 14 hour shift if something bad happens with one of your patients.”

Rakesh confirms that the job is emotionally draining as well as mentally and physically challenging… And so what he does to keep going throughout a long shift, is that he uses music to shape and alter his mental state.  He says:

“You know that you are going to walk into a full waiting room, and as soon as you walk in you’re going to need to spring into action. So I pump up my energy levels on the drive to work, with music that will do that for me, like some Linkin Park.

”Once I arrive I switch to Reggae music and we have it playing in the background for everyone. It’s sort of happy but also relaxed, which is how I need to feel to perform at my best under pressure.”

His use of music to keep him happy whilst doing a very demanding job, impressed Caroline Webb, who stated:

“One thing I’ve noticed about people who are able to sustain their energy in gruelling jobs is that they know themselves really well. They understand what causes their peaks and troughs, and they know the quickest way to lift their spirits when needed.”

The power of music to uplift you

What is the evidence that music be effective in improving your day? And what does it improve? A review of 23 studies covering almost 1,500 patients found that listening to music reduced heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety in heart disease patients (Bradt & Dileo, 2009: Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0014029/.

If you doubt that music can change your state for the better, then let me suggest that you have a listen to the following extract from Mozart’s piano concerto No. 23 (second movement) played by Helene Grimaud:

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How did you feel after listening to that short extract? The value of listening to Mozart’s music has been very carefully researched.

Listening to Mozart’s music can help reduce high blood pressure

Mozaet-pictureAccording to a new research report, listening to Mozart and Johann Strauss’s music can help lower hypertension, which means really high blood pressure. Listening to Mozart can not only soothe your mood, but also help lower blood pressure as well as stabilise the heart rate.

The findings showed that listening to classical composers,  Wolfgang Mozart and Johann Strauss (the younger), for 25 minutes, could lower blood lipid concentrations and heart rate.

The study analysed 60 participants who were exposed to 25 minutes of music by Mozart, Strauss or ABBA — a Swedish pop group formed in Stockholm in 1972. Another group of 60 participants were allocated to a control group that spent their time in silence.

The participants who listened to Mozart lowered their blood pressure.  (Specifically, Mozart lowered their systolic [upper reading] BP — the pressure in blood vessels when the heart beats – by 4.7 mm Hg, In the case of Strauss, by 3.7 mm Hg; whereas no substantial effect was seen for the songs of ABBA.  Diastolic [lower reading] blood pressure — when the heart rests between beats — also fell by 2.1 mm Hg for Mozart and 2.9 mm Hg for Strauss.)

Here’s what the researchers said:

“It has been known for centuries that music has an effect on human beings. In our study, listening to classical music resulted in lowered blood pressure and heart rate. These drops in blood pressure were clearly expressed for the music of Mozart and Strauss,” said Hans-Joachim Trappe and Gabriele Volt of Ruhr University Bochum in Germany.

But Mozart’s music had the strongest effect,” they added.

In addition, after exposure to the music of Mozart and Strauss, cortisol levels (which are stress hormones) were found to have dropped more in men than in women.

Quiet music of a slow tempo, and long legato (meaning that the notes are played or sung smoothly and connected together), are regarded as beneficial for the cardio-circulatory system, according to the paper published in the Journal ‘Deutsches Arzteblatt International’.

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I love to do Chi Kung exercises to Mozart music in the mornings; but I also find other forms of music to be uplifting balloons.  Here’a good example:

“Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson

Kids-cover-of-Uptown-FunkA fortnight ago I heard an amazing sound on Zoe Ball’s BBC Radio 2 music programme, and I enjoyed listening to it so much that this is one of my daily balloons, as it is full of energy and movement.

Here’s Mark Ronson’s official music video for ‘Uptown Funk’ performed by Bruno Mars. By the number of views of the video you can see that it’s pretty popular: (2,623,758,877 views on You Tube).

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Conclusion

If you try the ‘Haversack and Balloons’ exercise, you might find it to be a useful, quick self-coaching tool that can help you search for ways to enhance your daily life-balance. It can help you to produce an Action List for ways to reduce the pressures under which you labour, and to increase those experiences that uplift you and keep you going under pressure.

And if you need some help with this process, please contact me.

Best of luck.

That’s all for now.

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Email: Renata Taylor-Byrne

01422 843 629

(Or 44 1422 843 629 from outside the UK)

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Creative writing and the therapeutic journey

Blog Post No. 155

18th July 2017 – Updated on 22nd January 2019

Copyright (c) Dr Jim Byrne, 2018-2019

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: Recent books

If you have come to this page looking for recent books by Dr Jim Byrne (with Renata Taylor-Byrne), then here is the list of the latest books: on Lifestyle Counselling; Writing Therapy; and Diet and Exercise linked to emotional functioning; plus building successful couple relationships.

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Book Descriptions:

Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person: 

Or how to integrate nutritional insights, physical exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy

Front cover Lifestyle Counselling

By Dr Jim Byrne, with Renata Taylor-Byrne

Published by the Institute for E-CENT Publications

Available at Amazon outlets.***

The contents

In this book, you will find a very clear, brief, easy to read introduction to a novel approach to ‘counselling the whole person’. This emotive-cognitive approach does not restrict itself to mental processes.  We go beyond what the client is ‘telling themselves’, or ‘signalling themselves’; or what went wrong in their family of origin. We also include how well they manage their body-brain-mind in terms of diet, exercise, sleep, and emotional self-management (including self-talk, or inner dialogue). And we propose that it is better for counsellors and therapists to operate in a primarily right-brain modality, and to use the left-brain, cognitive processes, secondarily.

The most important, and novel, chapters in this book are as follows:

Chapter 4, which summarizes our research on the impact of diet/nutrition and physical exercise on mental health and emotional well-being.

Chapter 5, which reviews the science of sleep hygiene, plus common sense insights, and presents a range of lifestyle changes to promote healthy sleep, and thus to improve mental and emotional well-being.

Chapter 9, which explains how to incorporate the learning from chapters 4 and 5 into any system of talk therapy or counselling.

There is also a chapter (8) on counselling individuals using our Emotive-Cognitive approach, in which there is a section (8.3(b)) on using the Holistic SOR model to explore many aspects of the lifestyle of the client.

For more information, please click the following link: Lifestyle Counselling book.***

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How to Write A New Life for Yourself:

Narrative therapy and the writing solution

Writing Theapy book cover

By Dr Jim Byrne, with Renata Taylor-Byrne

Published by the Institute for E-CENT Publications

Available as a paperback at Amazon outlets.***

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In this book, we set out to show you how you can quickly and easily process your current psychological problems, and improve your emotional intelligence, by writing about your current and historic difficulties.  (Chapter 8 contains a detailed introduction to the subject of how to understand and manage your emotions).

This approach to writing about your emotional difficulties in order to resolve them has a long and noble tradition.  Many nineteenth century poets were seeking to heal broken hearts or resolve personal dissatisfactions by the use of their poetry writing activities; and many novels are clearly forms of catharsis (or release of pent up emotions) by the author.

But not all writing is equally helpful, therapeutically speaking.  If the writing is too negative; or too pessimistic; or simply makes the reader feel raw and vulnerable, then it is not going to have a positive effect.  Later we will show you how to tackle therapeutic writing, (within the two main disciplines of writing therapy – [the scientific and the humanistic]), in order to make it maximally effective.

For more information, please click the following link: Write a New Life for Yourself.***

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How to control your anger, anxiety and depression,

Using nutrition and physical exercise

Front cover design 4

By Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne

Published by the Institute for E-CENT Publications.

Available at Amazon outlets.***

1. Introduction

What we eat has a very powerful effect on our bodies and minds. And knowing and understanding how our body-mind reacts to the substances we feed ourselves is a crucial part of self-care.

For instance: depression can be caused by psychological reactions to losses and failures.  But it can also be caused by certain kinds of body-brain chemistry problems, some of which can begin in the guts, and be related to bad diet, and lack of physical exercise.  For example:

“If you are depressed while you suffer from regular yeast infections (like Candida Albicans), or athlete’s foot, or have taken antibiotics recently, there is a connection. Our brains are inextricably tied to our gastrointestinal tract and our mental well-being is dependent on healthy intestines. Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and a host of other mental illnesses from autism to ADHD can be caused by an imbalance of gut microbes like fungi, and ‘bad’ bacteria”.  (Source: Michael Edwards (2014))[i].

And when we take antibiotics, we kill off all of our friendly bacteria, and often what grows back first is the unfriendly stuff, like Candida Albicans, which can then cause depression, anxiety and other symptoms, as listed above.

Also, we can really benefit from knowing some of the latest ideas about where – (in our diets) – our depression, anxiety and anger can originate from; as provided by specialists who have devoted their lives to years of investigation into the workings of the human body and mind (or body-mind).

[i] Edwards, M. (2014) ‘The candida depression connection – How yeast leads to depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental disorders’. Available online at:                https://www.naturalnews.com/047184_ candida_ depression_gut_microbes.html#

For more information, please click the following link: Diet, exercise and mental health.***

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Top secrets for

Building a Successful Relationship: 

Volume 1 – A blueprint and toolbox for couples and counsellors: C101

By Dr Jim Byrne

With Renata Taylor-Byrne BSc (Hons) Psychol 1543762369 (1905x1383)

The full paperback cover, by Charles Saul

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On this web site, you will find enough information about our new book on couple relationships to inform your decision about buying it.  We have posted the full Preface; plus the full set of (revised) Contents pages; plus a brief extract from each of the main chapters (1-13).

Pre-publication review

“I have recently finished reading Dr Jim Byrne’s immensely useful book (about love and relationship skills).  This book is full of cutting edge thinking and priceless wisdom about couple relationships; which inspires us to believe that we can undoubtedly shape and improve our most important relationships.  The approach is comprehensive (despite being Volume 1 of 3), covering as it does: the nature of love and relationships; common myths about love and relationships (which tend to lead young people astray); some illuminating case studies of couple relationships that have gone wrong; and very helpful chapters on communication skills, conflict styles, and assertive approaches to relationship; plus a very interesting introduction to the theory that our marriage partnership is shaped, for better or worse, in our family of origin. I particularly liked the chapters on how to manage boundaries in relationships; and how to change your relationship habits. I can highly recommend this ‘must read’ book to couples and counsellors alike”.

Dr Nazir Hussain

Positive Psychology and Integrative Counselling Services, Whitby, Ontario, Canada.

September 2018

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Here’s a quick preview of part of the contents of Chapter 1:

This book has been designed to be helpful to two main audiences:

1. Anybody who is curious about how to build and maintain a happy, successful couple relationship, like a marriage or civil partnership (civil agreement), or simple cohabitation; and:

2. Any professional who works with individuals and couples who show up with problems of marital or couple conflict, breakdowns of communication, or unhappiness with the couple bond.

For more information about this book, please go to Top Secrets for Building a Successful Relationship.***

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Recent publications

Facing and Defeating your Emotional Dragons:

How to process old traumas, and eliminate undigested pain from your past experience

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Holistic Counselling in Practice:

An introduction to the theory and practice of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy

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Daniel O’Beeve’s Amazing Journey: From traumatic origins to transcendent love

The memoir of Daniel O’Beeve: a strong-willed seeker after personal liberation: 1945-1985

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Or take a look at my page about my top eight books, here: Books about E-CENT Counselling and related topics.***

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Introduction to first draft of this blog post

Cover444It is now more than three months since my previous blog post was published.  The delay was down to how busy I’ve been, largely because of writing my latest book, which is now available at Amazon: Unfit for Therapeutic Purposes: The case against Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.***

My main role in life, as a doctor of counselling, is to see individual clients who have ‘problems of daily living’ which they cannot resolve on their own.  I help people with problems of anxiety, depression, anger, couple conflict, attachment problems, and other relationship problems.  Dr Jim’s Counselling Division.***

drjim-counsellor1However, I also write books, blogs and web pages; and articles or papers on counselling-related topics.  And I help individuals, from time to time, who are struggling with their creative or technical writing projects.  Sometimes I help individual writers to stay motivated, or to process their repeated rejection by an unreceptive and uncaring world.

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The frustrations of writing

It is far from easy being a creative writer.  Frustrations abound, from conception of a new and useful writing project; doing the research; writing early drafts; then polishing, editing and publishing; and then trying to sell the end product in a world which is awash with information-overload.

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In my book on REBT, I wrote about that period like this:

“As early as August 2003 (and probably earlier), I was writing about the fact that stress was a multi-causal problem.  That idea contradicts the ABC theory, which asserts that all emotional distress (including the common manifestations of stress: which include anger, anxiety and depression) are caused exclusively by the client’s Beliefs (B’s).  Here is an example of my writing from August 2003:

“I have developed a stress management programme consisting of fifteen strategies which help you to work on your body, your emotions, your thinking, and your stress management skills. This programme allows you to develop a stress-free life.

8-physical-symptoms-of-stress

“You may also be affected by many life-change stressors, e.g. Moving house; death of your spouse or other loved one; divorce; marriage; redundancy; bullying at work; promotion; demotion; change of lifestyle; etc.

“Your stress level also depends upon such factors as your diet, exercise, what you tell yourself about your life pressures, and so on. (What you tell yourself about your pressures is called your “self-talk”).

“And a lot depends upon your sense of control. Can you control your workload, your work environment, and/or your social life? Are you confident and assertive enough to at least try to control your workload, your work environment, and/or your social life? Are you wise enough to learn how to stoically accept those things which you clearly cannot control? The more control you have, the less stress you feel, according to the Whitehall Studies, conducted by Michael Marmot, beginning in 1984.” (Original source in footnotes)[1].

However, the frustration was this: Although I had expertise about managing stress; and although I had packaged 15 different strategies for getting your stress under control, very few people bought my book!

And today, I believe, most people do not understand stress: How it destroys their happiness, damages their physical health, and causes all kinds of emotional problems.

Tough stuff! This is the lot of the creative writer.  The world most often seems to not be ready for our insights!

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People love simplicity and side-tracks

While my stress book was not selling to any reasonable degree, the simple books about the ABC model of REBT, produced by Dr Albert Ellis, were selling much better.  Those books presented an exaggerated claim that they could help the reader to quickly and relatively effortlessly get rid of any problem, simply by changing their beliefs about the problems they encountered.

My REBT book demonstrates that there was never any solid evidence that this claim is true.  It also demonstrates that, in the process, the REBT/CBT model blames the client for their own upsets, thus excusing the harshness of current government policy in the US and the UK, where the rich are enriched and the poor are squashed!  That squashing process hurts, and causes emotional distress and physical health problems.

Here is the evidence that it is not the individual’s beliefs, but the social environment that has the most impact on mental health and emotional well-being:

While psychotherapists like Albert Ellis tended to emphasize the role of the counselling client’s beliefs in the causation of anger, anxiety, depression, and so on, Oliver James, and his concept of ‘affluenza’, tends to emphasize living in a materialistic environment. As Dr James writes: “Nearly ten years ago, in my book Britain on the Couch, I pointed out that a twenty-five-year-old American is (depending on which studies you believe) between three and ten times more likely to be suffering depression today than in 1950. … In the case of British people, nearly one-quarter suffered from emotional distress … in the past twelve months, and there is strong evidence that a further one-quarter of us are on the verge thereof.  … (M)uch of this increase in angst occurred after the 1970s and in English-speaking nations”.  People’s beliefs have not changed so much over that time.  This is evidence of the social-economic impact of the post-Thatcher/Reagan neo-liberal economic policies!

Oliver James (2007) Affluenza: How to be successful and stay sane.  Page xvi-xvii. (63).

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Conclusion

If you are a creative writer, and you want to write your own autobiography, or autobiographical novel, or you need support with any aspect of your creative writing process, then I can help you.

Coaching, counselling and therapy for writers.***

Or you could take a look at my current books in print.***

Or take a look at my page about my top eight books, here: Books about E-CENT Counselling and related topics.***

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

 

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

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Happiness and relationships research

Blog Post No. 50

10th July 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

Renata’s Coaching and Counselling blog: What really makes people happy?

A ‘rave review’ of Robert Waldinger’s TED talk

Introduction

It’s very easy for us in the west at the moment, to imagine that having more money, or a better house, more foreign holidays, a great new sports car or higher status at work (like getting to the top of an organisation), will make us really happy.

Bugatti-car

And if we have the right physical appearance, as defined by our culture, this can give people a feeling of confidence and self-assurance. So we obviously put a lot of investment and energy into trying to look our best!

KardashiansBut we did not make up these materialistic beliefs ourselves.  All the relentless advertising messages, and propaganda from the media, create this illusion: Having new possessions will really make life better for us, and guarantee our happiness.

But the truth is that they won’t!

Obviously, if we are desperately short of money, have nowhere to live, or no food to eat, then food, money, shelter and clothing are crucially important for our survival.

But if we do have enough to eat, a roof over our heads, and a way of providing an income for ourselves, then some small improvements may make us slightly happier, but more material stuff is not going to make us a lot happier!

So what really does make us happy, after we have the basic means of survival?

Robert-Waldinger

In this blog, I will give a short account of Robert Waldinger’s TED talk in which he describes a major research study which provides powerful evidence for the conclusion that material things won’t make us happy. This conclusion is based on research that started in 1938, and is still ongoing.

The Harvard Study of Adult development

Picture-of-HarvardSeventy-five years ago, ‘The Harvard Study of Adult development’ was established.  A group of researchers started studying 724 teenagers through to their old age. The participants were from two very different types of backgrounds:

# One group was from the poorest part of Boston: from the most economically deprived and distressed families; and:

# The other group was more prosperous, from Harvard College, and was made up of second year students.

These two groups are asked to respond to questionnaires every two years; are interviewed in their homes; have brain scans; have medical records examined; and have blood taken for testing; and they have been videotaped (as adults) talking to their partners about what is really concerning them. And (in time) the researchers talk to their children as well.

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The research project is still ongoing.  Three directors of research have come, served decades in that role; and the project is now being conducted by a fourth director: Robert Waldinger.  And Dr Waldinger has presented a TED talk which explains the research findings.

So, what does the evidence from this study tell us about what really makes people happy?

Elderly-peopleHere’s what Robert Waldinger states:

“Well, the lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75 year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

Good relationships!  Not cars, or cash, or status, or houses, or holidays, or any of that ‘popular’ materialistic stuff.

Waldinger goes on to say that the researchers learned three big lessons about relationships:

Firstly, the more socially connected we are to people, e.g. family, friends, and the community, the happier and healthier and more long-lived we will be. And the opposite applies: Loneliness is toxic. People who are less connected to people than they would like to be, suffer from declining health as they reach middle age, their brain functioning becomes less efficient and they are less happy.

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Secondly, it doesn’t matter what type of relationships you’re involved in; or whether you are partnered or not; or whether you have a large or small number of friends. The research results show that the crucial aspect of our close relationships is the quality. If we are living in the middle of conflict, then it’s really harmful to our health. Waldinger gives the example of high conflict marriages: If there’s no affection present in high conflict marriages, then they are really bad for our health, and are possibly worse than getting divorced.

Happy-coupleHe then states: And living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective.”

That is to say, protective of our health, of our life expectancy, our happiness.

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Thirdly: The final important lesson that the researchers learned was that not only do good relationships make us happier and healthier, but they also protect our brains. He gives an example of someone in their eighties: If they are in a securely attached relationship, and can count on their significant other person being there to help them in times of need, then their memories stay intact for longer.

And conversely, when people who were in relationships where they felt they couldn’t really rely on the other person to help them, they fared badly, in that their memories deteriorated sooner.

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Happiness reduces physical pain

Couple-kissingIt might seem that physical pain is physical pain, and that is that.  But we have always known that physical pain and emotional pain are mediated through the same nerve networks.  Here Waldinger explains how pain can be experienced in different ways:

“Good, close relationships seem to buffer us from some of the slings and arrows of getting old. Our most happily partnered men and women reported, in their 80’s, that on the days that they had most physical pain, their mood stayed just as happy. But the people who were in unhappy relationships, on the days that they reported more physical pain, it was magnified by more emotional pain”.

That is to say, physical and emotional pain are either additive or subtractive.  So, if you work at achieving a happy relationship, that happiness will be subtracted from any physical pain you subsequently feel.

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Predicting happiness in senior years

Another insight from the research findings was that (on the basis of the information they had accumulated about the men, up to their entering their eighties), when the men had reached the age of 50, the researchers were able to predict who would grow into a happy, healthy octogenarian and who wouldn’t.

They discovered that the people who were most satisfied with their relationships at the age of fifty, were the healthiest at age 80!

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Conclusion

The bottom line of this research is this: If you want to have a life that is happy, now and towards the end, make sure you invest in building happy relationships – or at least one good, happy relationship – now!

Waldinger’s message at the end of his TED talk, is this:

“…Good, close relationships are good for our health and well-being…this is wisdom that is as old as the hills. Why is this so hard to get and so easy to ignore? Well, we’re human. What we’d really like is a quick fix, something we can get that will make our lives good and keep them that way.”

In our western societies, developing relationship skills comes way down our list of priorities: after academic skills, money-making skills, technological skills, medical skills, selling skills, entertainment skills, sports skills, construction skills, accountancy skills, legal skills, creative skills etc. As Barbara Sher said (referring, critically, to American values, which are not dissimilar to those which dominate at the moment in the UK),

If it don’t make money, it don’t count!”

That is to say, all the propaganda of the neoliberal age emphasizes money, money and more money.  And organizational power, or dominance.  And none of these things will actually make you happy!

We now know, unmistakably, from 75 years of powerful research, that what will make us happy, and healthy, is good quality relationships – at least one!

So how do we develop quality relationships?

Traits of a healthy realtionshipAlthough maintaining the quality of our relationships is the key to health and happiness, there ain’t no quick fixes.  You have to work at building relationships!  You cannot buy them ready made!

Werner Erhard used to emphasize that “Successful relationships are based on agreed on goals!”  Yes, that’s right.  Agree on!  That means negotiated between equal individuals.

And Professor John Gottman stresses that you have to work at maintaining a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative moments in your relationships.  So you have to learn how to do that.

As I mentioned in my last blog, Robert Bolton identified twelve specific roadblocks to communication, which, when used, are likely to negatively impact on our relationships with people.

And John Gottman was able to pinpoint four distinctive ways of interacting that can destroy a relationship and he called them the “Four horsemen of the Apocalypse”. Again, you have to learn those insights, and I teach them to my relationship coaching clients.

There are many valuable techniques that we can learn to keep our relationships of a good quality, perhaps the simplest and most apt being the one that Werner Erhard mentioned in one of his seminars on relationships:

“If you want to have a really powerful relationship with anybody, you have got to stop making the other person wrong!”

(Immediately after he said that, someone in the audience piped up: “But Werner, I don’t make them wrong. They are wrong! I just point it out to them.”  You will never achieve a really powerful relationship with anybody unless you learn to stop being critical, sarcastic, condemning, judging, and so on.  And I teach those lessons to my coaching clients).

Creating good relationships can be difficult at times, because it is an art form, and one you have to learn.  And Waldinger states:

“Relationships are messy and complicated, and the hard work of tending to family and friends is not sexy or glamorous. It’s also lifelong.”

But he finishes his presentation with this message:

“The good life is built with good relationships”.

If we were very lucky, we learned great relationship skills from our parents and other family members. If we didn’t, it’s important to not beat ourselves up because of that. But we then may have to learn the hard way, through trial and error and repeated experimentation, until we develop the people skills we need. And it is often impossible to learn what we need to know in this way.  It makes more sense to seek out teaching or training or coaching in these skills, and learn from people who know what works and what does not work.

That’s what my partner and I did, beginning in 1984, attending couples therapy; studying assertive communication; and Werner Erhard’s relationship and communication skills; and then on to studying Dr John Gottman’s approach to relationships, including marriage relationships.

Based on our experience, of learning how to have a really powerful, happy relationship, I can tell you: the effort is well worth it.

We now know, based on the rock-solid findings of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, that investing time and money and energy in developing relationship skills is the most valuable investment that we can make, and will give us the benefits of health, happiness and brain longevity for the rest of our lives.

This is a really great TED talk and I strongly recommend that you watch it in full.

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If you want to learn some of the techniques and skills that various specialists have developed, so that you can enrich the quality of your relationships, and you can have a happier life, then I would be very happy to help you.  Please contact me to discuss possibilities.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

ABC Coaching-Counselling Division

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

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References

Here is a link to the Adult Development Study website, and there is an interview on it with Robert Waldinger, at CBS ‘This morning’, the television news programme.

http://www.adultdevelopmentstudy.org/

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Coaching for success

Blog Post No. 49

16th June 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

The power of coaching to transform your life, at home or in work

Introduction

In this blog I want to describe one of the advantages and one of the disadvantages of having coaching, and what the coaching relationship uniquely offers.

There are many advantages to having coaching but I want to mention one of the most powerful advantages.

One of the top advantages of being coached

Being listened to, fully and sensitively, by someone who will respect your boundaries, and not try to impose their world view, or values, on you, and who is a skilled and effective listener, is a wonderfully relaxing and stress-reducing experience. The deceptively simple process of being listened to properly (meaning actively) helps you to return to the confident person you once were when you were younger.

“To excel at the highest level – or any level, really – you need to believe in yourself, and hands down, one of the biggest contributors to my self-confidence has been private coaching.” Stephen Curry

You may think: “Surely most people listen to each other properly. What’s the big deal about being listened to by a coach?”

People-skills-coverWell, my research shows that most people do not know how to listen effectively.  They most often engage in interruptions of the speakers concerns.  Perhaps I should give you some examples of those kinds of ‘roadblock’ to communication.

Robert Bolton (1979) listed twelve of the most common ‘roadblocks to communication’ that people regularly use when communicating with each other. Here they are:

  • Criticising
  • Name-calling
  • Diagnosing
  • Praising evaluatively
  • Ordering
  • Threatening
  • Moralising
  • Asking excessive or inappropriate questions
  • Advising
  • Diverting
  • Using logical argument, and/or
  • Reassuring

handshake-imageThe first four responses are judging responses; the second four are ways in which people send solutions to you; and the final three responses are ways in which the ‘listener’ is avoiding your concerns.

These roadblocks are particularly unhelpful if the speaker is under any kind of stress; and these bad habits are used a lot of the time in conversation. So that’s why talking to friends and family has limitations. People send roadblocks in their communication with each other and don’t realise they are doing it.

Why coaching is different from ordinary conversation

When you hire a professional coach, you have the chance to fully express yourself, knowing that you will be fully listened to with no road blocking of your communication.

The specific active listening skills that the coach will use, are as follows:

# The coach reflects back to you what you have told them, to ensure accuracy of understanding and for you to hear what you have on your mind. The simple act of telling a coach what your current challenges or goals are, externalises what is going on in your mind, and is very good for reducing stress.

Mehrabian-picture

Our brains are designed to deal with incoming information, and to act on the basis of the information they receive. They are not designed for rumination (endlessly recycling information).

The act of expressing yourself is very good for you and frees up a lot of stored energy. Being understood by another person, and having your feelings felt by them, is therapeutic.  Reflective listening by the coach helps you to know yourself better, and to feel understood.

# Summarising the main points, is another aspect of the coach’s approach to active listening.  Your coach will summarize what you are saying at intervals, to keep you on track.

# Clarifying your concerns or goals also helps.  Some goals may become apparent as you express yourself, and clarifying what you want is an essential part of the listening process.

The process of active listening helps to build a relationship of trust between you and your coach, as the coach gives evidence of their attunement to you and their empathy. This is also an important constituent of the coaching process.

The listening skills described above can be found in one of the best books I’ve read in the area of human relationships. This is titled, ‘People Skills: How to assert yourself, listen to others and resolve conflict’, by Robert Bolton PhD. It took him ten years to write, and you can tell!  It is superb, full of wisdom, and an invaluable manual on how to communicate properly with people. I strongly recommend it.

What about the disadvantages of having coaching?

The conditions under which you may be offered coaching, (for example in the workplace), make a difference as to whether you will get the full benefits of coaching.

For example, you may be ordered to receive coaching as part of your job. But this won’t necessarily work for you, or for the company involved.  Indeed it may not even be coaching, properly speaking!

Jenny-Rogers-bookJenny Rogers is an executive coach with more than 25 years’ experience, and her clients are usually senior leaders from a wide range of organisations. She has also trained many hundreds of coaches and managers in coaching skills.

In her book ‘Coaching skills: A handbook’ (2004) she describes what she does when she is asked to coach someone in an organisation. She always makes sure that the potential client wants to have the coaching, and she has a half-hour meeting in private with the employee.

I cannot work with a reluctant client”, she states: (page 166).

The client needs to trust the coach, and she goes on to say:

I know how impossible it would be to create trust if the client believes the process is about assessment – a completely different process”.

Why won’t it work to have coaching if you are reluctant to take part, and see no value in the process?

Firstly, you can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

Secondly, people read each other’s emotional state and intent non-verbally, using ‘mirror neurons’, and a coachee will know, non-consciously whether they are being deceived or manipulated!

Thirdly, people have told me that it can be a humiliating experience: because the lack of choice in the process indicates to the employee that their managers have little respect for the employee’s professional integrity and work expertise.

Fourth, a person who is ‘assigned to the role’ of coach is not the same thing as a person who is committed to the growth of others.

The process of coaching won’t work if you don’t want to try it out with all your heart; or if the coach is not a real coach; or the process has a hidden agenda! (The coach has to establish a trusting and supportive relationship with you for it to work).

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What coaching does for people

So what do the best coaches do?

jULIE-STARR-BOOK-COVERJulie Starr, a highly respected coach and consultant, wrote the book ‘The Coaching manual’, which was one of the set books on my Coaching Diploma course!  In it she states that:

 “If you imagine yourself being coached, you will perhaps appreciate why so many engage the services of a coach. This person, your coach, will listen to you with a curiosity to understand who you are, what you think and generally how you experience the world.

“Your coach will reflect back to you, with the kind of objective view that creates real clarity. What’s most important during that conversation is you, your success, happiness and ultimate fulfilment. Having worked to establish what exactly you want to achieve from coaching, these goals and objectives become the focus of the conversation.

“As a consequence, the only agenda happening in the conversation is your agenda, which your coach will often guard more closely than you do…

“When things don’t go well your coach supports you. When you experience success your coach celebrates your achievements. Your coach will also help you to pinpoint exactly what you did that worked so well, so that you can do it again.

“A coaching relationship is like no other, simply because of its combination of objective detachment and commitment to the goals of the individual. Little wonder then that so many people are finding that coaching relationships can help them develop and learn in ways that enable them to have or achieve what they really want.”

Conclusion

In this blog I have described one of the key skills used by a good coach: active listening! I have also explained the advantages of having a coach, and clarified why being coached has to be actively chosen by someone, or the trusting relationship, on which coaching is based, can’t develop. Finally, the unique features of a coaching relationship have been described.

Here is a great TED talk by Patti Dobrowolski called ‘Draw your future – take control of your life’ (‘Best TED talks 2015’) in which she explains a simple but very powerful way of finding out how you can improve your life for the better.

Please take a look and see if this is of any use to you.

Contact me if you want to experience the benefits of being coached, and to bring more happiness, peace and self-confidence into your life.

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Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

ABC Coaching-Counselling Division

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

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Goal setting and achievement

Blog Post No. 50 (was No. 1 – Series B)

Posted on 4th May 2017 (Originally posted on 20th July 2016)

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2016

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: Why bother setting goals? Why not just go shopping instead – have a bit of retail therapy?

renata-taylor-byrne-lifestyle-coachPeople love to be distracted! Makeovers, new clothes, new cars or houses, holidays and other material goods or experiences can be very pleasurable distractions in the short term. But there is one big drawback which you’ll never hear about from the media.  Here it is:

# As human beings we get ‘habituatedto new things in our lives. This means that we get used to new things and the glow wears off very quickly, and we start to feel dissatisfied again.

Have you noticed how children quickly get used to having presents given to them? Have you noticed how soon you can adjust to new furniture, or a new car? Or a new relationship?

What a shame that is, after what they cost us!

Distractions are very poor substitutes for the achievement of meaningful goals!  Let me explain:

# Achieving goals is a deeply satisfying activity for humans, and research has shown that our brains release a feel-good hormone when we achieve them. We have that sense of achievement for the rest of our lives – no-one can take it away from us. Each time we remember it, we feel good and we know the hard work we had to do to achieve it.

Image result for image for brain tracey and goalsI have had the privilege for years of seeing the happiness and sense of achievement shine out of clients’ faces when they achieve their goals.  For example, I have helped many students to achieve their academic qualifications, at the end of a course which has been a tough battle for them; but they made it through! I was so proud of them, and they wisely took pictures at their presentation events so they could treasure the event for the rest of their lives and show them to their families.

That warm glow lasts for the rest of our lives! And you can’t buy it on Oxford Street or on any other high street in the UK or your local supermarket.

And this warm glow is experienced no matter whether your goal is related to your work, your home life, your relationships, your academic study, your hobbies, etc.

So how can we achieve our goals?

Athletes involved in sports or other areas of life have coaches to help them achieve their goals and win competitions. They know they can’t do it all on their own. They know the value of focus and constructive feedback, and how efficient and effective it can be.

But in ordinary life, people have just as many challenges, because they face the tasks of holding down a job, and/or raising a family, managing their relationships, and/or creating a career for themselves, handling health problems, caring for other family members, organising social events and many other tasks.

They also have information being bombarded at them, 24/7, from different directions. So it can be very easy to get confused and lose contact with themselves. That’s when hiring a coach/counsellor will help you focus on:

  • Where you are now in your life
  • What you specifically want to gain or change
  • What you can change and what you can’t
  • The specific steps you can take to improve your life
  • How to persist with taking those steps
  • Models and techniques you can learn to keep your head above water.
  • How to create the kind of life you want for yourself in the future.
Jim & Renata's logo
ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

The coach/counsellor uses their skills and training to help you create a better life. With their support and knowledge of how to release your potential, you get to step out of your daily routine and figure out where you are headed.  And, also to check out with yourself if this is what you really want.

You may want to change your job, or some aspect of your relationships, achieve further training, or take a searching look at where you are going in your life. With the help of a coach/counsellor you can identify the experiences you want and make changes which will last the rest of your life.

And the effects will last longer than the new hairdo or CD you bought, or that new mobile app you wanted. Your warm glow of achievement, when you achieve a valued goal, will be a treasured part of your life.  And remember – you can’t buy it at Sainsbury’s!

Do you want to give it a try and find out the truth for yourself? We are geared up to work with you to bring valued changes into your life, so contact us for help and support.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

01422 843 629

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Handling conflict skilfully: Knowing your personal style…

Blog Post No. 47

12th April 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: Handling conflict skilfully: Knowing your personal style…

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Introduction

The-Satir-modelIn this blog I am going to do a ‘rave review’ of a short and simple quiz that shows us how we handle conflict in our current relationships. Some quizzes don’t give us many insights about ourselves when we’re interacting with other people, but this one strikes me as giving us a clear mirror which shows us how we deal with pressure from others.

The quiz, created by Virginia Satir, outlines the five main ways of handling conflict with others. She created a system of conjoint-family-therapy, and was a pioneering therapist who showed that families play a significant part in the development of the problems of individuals, and that blaming individual family members for their problems was unfair, because the problems the client showed up with were learned and created in the family.

Understanding how we deal with conflict at the moment

The great thing about this quiz is that it shows you a range of patterns that people play out when they are dealing with interpersonal conflict. The strategies used vary from constructive to really unhelpful and ineffective.

If you complete the quiz below, and you look at your results, you’ll be able to see your current favourite approach, and how to change your behaviour if you are not happy with the result.

The Satir Personal Styles Quiz

Here are the five ways of handling conflict which Satir identified:

The-conflict-styles

PLACATING – Pacifying, calming or appeasing behaviour. (Appeasing means to make someone calm and less hostile by giving in to their demands).

BLAMING – Holding someone to account, condemning or accusing them.

DISTRACTING – Diverting, changing the subject, cracking a joke for entertainment, etc.

COMPUTING – Assessing, analysing, and theorising about what you are experiencing.

LEVELLING – Being frank, open, honest, and above board. Telling the truth as you see it.

So this quiz tests how you react when life gets difficult: particularly during interpersonal conflict.

Your ‘blaming’ score shows how far you are liable to blame other people when under stress.  Your ‘placating’ score shows how much you tend to placate or appease.  Your ‘distracting’ score shows how much you tend to distract yourself and other people from the problems being presented.  Your ‘computing’ score shows how far you tend to cut off from your feelings.  Your ‘levelling’ score shows how far you tend to react creatively and flexibly.

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Here is the quiz: Read through this list of 20 statements.  Write down the statement number of any statement with which you strongly agree. (You will need these numbers to mark your resulting score).

Choose as many statements as you like from the list if you think they reflect you or your views.  You should choose at least seven statements.

  1. Conflict is something I try to reduce as soon as possible.
  2. If someone’s going to tell me something I don’t want to hear, I’ll quickly and smoothly try to change the subject.
  3. Conflict is healthy if it means the people involved solve a problem.
  4. It’s important that people know who’s responsible for a mistake.
  5. Catching people off-guard with a compliment is a good way to ease tension.
  6. I’ve been told I can be unemotional.
  7. I’ve been told that sometimes I let people take me for granted.
  8. I can get stressed but I try not to let it affect my life too much.
  9. Avoiding taking responsibility for my actions is a good way to shift blame.
  10. In the past, I have taken the blame for something when it wasn’t my fault.
  11. I can keep my head clear by distancing myself when those around me are getting edgy.
  12. Hopefully, people know that once a conflict with me is finished, we can then move on.
  13. I’ll fight my corner at all costs to make sure I can hold my head up high.
  14. I dislike being shouted at, so I’ll usually try to soothe the situation.
  15. If I’m clever and funny enough I can keep conflict at bay.
  16. If something bad happens, I cut off from my emotions; it feels safer to not let my guard down.
  17. I’m not scared to confront someone – but I do to do so without making the other person feel bad.
  18. Getting over-emotional during conflict is no way to solve problems.
  19. I have a long memory when it comes to remembering others who’ve crossed me in some way.
  20. If I’ve forgotten to do something I said I would, some ‘social flirting’ keeps people off my back.

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Now that you’ve chosen at least seven statements as being ones that you agree with, please draw a grid like the one below, and write in the numbers.  Then tick those numbers you’ve chosen above.

Here is the grid, containing a worked example.

Satir mark grid, Worked example

Scoring

Which column has the highest score?

The one with the highest score is your favourite strategy, followed by the next lowest number.

In the example in the grid above, we can see that  ‘distracting’ is the style most often chosen, followed by ‘placating’ and ‘blaming’.  So this person would be called ‘a distractor’, for shorthand description.

Satirs-five-freedomsVirginia Satir’s conflict categories:

When things get tough in our lives we choose one or more of these personality patterns. Here is more of an explanation of these styles of behaviour:

Placating

Step on a placator’s foot and they will be the one to apologise.  Placators know that peacemakers get blessed – or at least don’t get trashed.  And so a typical placatory will soothe, please and pacify.

More females than males tend to be placators. They tend to dislike disagreeing with people – even if they are being criticized.

The aim of the placator is to get others to be nice to them – and, as placators tend to be externally influenced, they’ll therefore probably go along with whatever the other person wants.  They’ll hold eye contact, smile a lot, and nonverbally ask for forgiveness.  They apologize a lot.

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Blaming

If a blamer steps on someone’s foot, they will expect the other person (whose foot they stepped on) to apologize. This is because a blamer’s classic move is to shift the responsibility away from themselves, and there are many ways of doing this: They can nag; they can sulk; they can shout; and they can hit out.  Or they can pretend that it’s not a problem and then launch a surprise attack a few hours later when everyone thinks the worst is over.

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Distracting

Did they step on someone’s foot? No. A distracter will state that they weren’t even there.  They’ll smile, or crack a joke, or say what lovely weather it is today, and do everything in order to deflect attention.  Their favourite phrase is this: ‘It wasn’t me’.

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Computing

When a ‘computer’ steps on someone’s foot, they simply won’t register the fact.  They are the one who just doesn’t seem to feel anything, and doesn’t respond emotionally to what’s happened.  They simply shut down their feelings – and can’t understand the suffering of others, if it is (or seems to be) illogical or irrational.  Or just plain ‘emotional’!

A computer style used by a person may seem like they are responding calmly to a crisis. But they are panicking just as much as anyone else.  It’s just that they are trying to handle their panic by cutting themselves off at the neck.  And actually, that’s just as bad an idea as placating, blaming or distracting, because they are missing out on the information or motivation their body is trying to give them.

So they will take action, but over-rationally.  They’ll respond, but insensitively.

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Communication-quoteLevelling

A leveller who steps on someone’s foot will notice.  Then they’ll move back.  Then they’ll ask if there’s anything they can do.  They won’t grovel, dump or look the other way – and they won’t cut off from their feelings.  They’ll be genuinely regretful – but unlike people who run the other four personality sub patterns, they   won’t go into a spiral of defensive responses.

So a leveller is going to be the one to hang in there under stress or in conflict, and simply get things sorted.  They will strike a balance between thinking and feeling – and that means that they will:

(a) Face up logically to the problem; and:

(b) Have the emotional energy to sort it out.

Whether at home or away, they’ll have the space to listen to other people, take into account everyone’s needs and find a solution.

Anyone who works with a leveller, marries a leveller, or has a leveller for a friend, therefore has an easy life.  They know exactly where they stand with a leveller, and consequently feel secure. They know that if any problems arise in their relationship then the leveller will tell them. (They will not whine, sulk, push the problem away or deny their feelings).

The bottom line is that the more positive your upbringing, the more likely you are to be a leveller. (Or you could have some corrective experiences, in social relationships or therapy, later in life).

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Learning to level

It might now be obvious that all of the ‘types’ could benefit from learning how to level with others: or to speak up and describe what is happening, and how they experience it.

Being a heavy-duty placator, blamer, computer or distracter isn’t a particularly good idea.  Not only do these personality sub-patterns feel uncomfortable to actually use, but they will not be appreciated by a boss, or by friends or close family.

First-Satir-callout

Of course, everyone runs a bit of the four more unhelpful personality sub-patterns, at least some of the time. This is not surprising, because we learn ways of behaving when we are young that seem to work. And at school, skills at maths and English and other subjects are rated much more highly than the ability to deal with people effectively and skilfully.

IQ (or the ability to take logic tests) is rated much higher than EQ (or the ability to read one’s own emotions; the emotions of others; and to communicate about both).  But when we’re an adult, the limitations of our lack of skill in handling conflict start to become much clearer. Virginia Satir’s therapeutic advice was to shift your behaviour towards helpful ‘levelling’.

Some tips

The limitations of the different ways of handling conflict will now be outlined:

  1. If you tend to be a placator:
  • You may think it’s a good sub pattern as it seems to smooth things over.
  • In fact, you won’t get what you want – plus you can drive people crazy by always apologising.

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  1. If you tend to be a blamer:
  • You may think it’s a good sub-pattern because at least no one shouts at you.
  • In fact, it alienates people – plus by shifting responsibility, you give away your power.
  • Instead, to move towards being a leveller, learn that the world’s not out to get you and that temper tantrums don’t work.

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  1. If you tend to be a distracter:
  • You may think it’s a good sub-pattern because it gets you off the hook.
  • In fact, you never get to face problems – plus you never take responsibility for things. (And taking responsibility is the first step in solving most of our problems!)
  • Instead, to move towards being a leveller, learn to face up to it when other people challenge you. Then either take their criticisms on board, or stand firm in believing you’re OK.

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  1. If you tend to be a computer:
  • You may think this is a good way to behave, because it keeps you clear of messy emotion.
  • In fact, you miss out by ignoring feelings – plus you may come across as hard hearted. If you cannot read another person’s emotions, then you cannot really understand them or communicate effectively with them.
  • Instead, to move towards being a leveller, allow yourself to pay more attention to what others are feeling; and take their emotions into account. (You might need some coaching in the labelling of emotions; and understanding how to manage them in yourself).

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Second-Satir-calloutLearning new behaviours

As you can see from the quiz above, the behaviour of someone who is a ‘leveller’ is the ideal style of communication that we can work towards, if we want to work well with other people, and have loving, healthy relationships.

But it ain’t easy! We never stop learning how to deal with people, and this quiz should help you to know the strengths and weaknesses of your personal style.

The ‘levelling’ approach reduces conflict; and also reduces stress in our bodies, because we are dealing with problems as they arise and are facing up to them.

The reality is that we can’t change other people – only ourselves! (And that, as you most likely know, is not easy!)

But we can earn our own self-respect – (which as Lord Roseberry said, is worth fourteen times more than the approval of other people) – and be a really good role model for our children and other people in our environment.

Virginia Satir’s model helps us see where we are operating from; and also what works and what doesn’t, when it comes to dealing with conflict constructively.

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Conclusion

In my opinion, this quiz, presented above, is very useful.  It raises our self-awareness, and gives us specific ways of behaving which are very useful for us if we spend a lot of time dealing with people in the work environment, or in our family life. These insights are very helpful for our own personal development, if we want to take on the challenge.

See what you think. Try the test out and see if it’s any use to you. Consider whether you could benefit from moving towards levelling.  And if I can help, you know where I am!

Best wishes

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

ABC Coaching-Counselling Division

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

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Ten reasons to get a lifestyle coach

Blog Post No. 45

22nd March 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: Ten reasons why having a coach makes you stronger and happier

Introduction

RihannaI like lists, and I thought you might like to see this list I have created about the value of having a coach. Some people may well feel that they are not entitled to have a coach. I don’t think Rihanna, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Serena Williams or Andy Murray would agree with them.

It may be difficult to believe that coaches can strengthen you in the face of your current problems, and get you on track in your life, or you may be convinced that having one won’t help you to make you happier or achieve your goals. But here’s a list of what they actually do for people:

When you have a coach

  1. You now have an ally – someone totally focussed on helping you identify the goals you want to achieve, or skills you want to develop, so that you can be much happier about what you are doing with your life. They provide a secure, benevolent mirror, to help you ground yourself in an ever-changing world. This immediately can be reassuring and reduce stress.
  2. They bring their skills and knowledge with them, and those assets are now available for you. You have the benefit of their years of experience and tried and tested learning strategies.
  3. They get you speaking about your vision for your life, or the changes you want, in a way which you can’t do very easily on your own. We find it very hard to “get out of our own minds” and see our lives objectively. A coach can help us do that.
  4. The coach has solved a lot of their own stress problems and can show you how you can make life less stressful for yourself.
  5. They listen to you and respect you in a way that you may not have experienced before. It’s like being a plant and suddenly the sunshine comes out, and you can feel yourself growing and getting stronger. That’s how I felt with two of the American Forum leaders who coached me as part of the Landmark Education courses. They were priceless experiences!
  6. Coaches tell you the truth about your skills and how you are utilizing them. Unlike your friends, they don’t need your approval, and have no reason refrain from being quite factual and scientific in their observations about your behaviours and attitudes. They tell it like it is. But they should always be constructive and supportive when giving feedback.
  7. At times, life can be very tough and we can forget the problems we have faced in the past and successfully overcome. We can become discouraged and lose hope.

But a coach is there to show you that your motivation can be re-energised in a flash, by reminding you of your successes in your life so far. They can also show you how your thinking may become one-sided, unscientific, and failing to acknowledge all the good things there are in life that can help you.

  1. A great coach will discourage you from being an escapist. They will spell out clearly the lifestyle choices that you will need to make to achieve your goals, and to become stronger mentally and physically, so that you have the energy to achieve them.
  2. Coaches research and analyse the latest information being released about how our brain works, new problem-solving strategies, how crucial nutrition and exercises to your mental and physical well-being, and how to protect yourself from social and environmental hazards.
  3. Your ‘Inner Critic’, if it is not controlled, can sap your energy and hijack your attempts to change your life for the better. Your coach can help you to become aware of it, and to develop ways of stopping it undermining your self-confidence and self-concept, and shrinking your life.

Renatas-coaching-div2That’s all for this week.

I hope you find a good coach to help you to become all that you could be.

Take care,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

ABC Coaching-Counselling Division

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

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Stress management for students and school pupils

Blog Post No. 32

8th May 2016

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2016

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: How deep breathing and revision techniques help students get higher grades

Review of a Sunday Times article on stress management for pupils and their parents

Introduction

At this time of year there are thousands of students of all ages going in for exams of one kind or another. How can they help themselves to handle the pressures they face?

Schoolchildren-sit-an-exam-roomIn this blog I am going to do a short summary of an experiment that was conducted over the last three years in an independent girls school, to help students who were preparing for their GCSE exams; and look at the results to see how they could help anyone who was entering an exam themselves.

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Revision, Planning and Deep breathing

School-meditation-008For the last year, students at Queen Anne’s independent boarding school, in Reading, have been learning all about how their brains react to stress, so that they are ready for their forthcoming exams.

They were shown how planning and revision strategies reduce the sense of panic when they are in the exam room. But they were also taught techniques such as deep breathing and reappraising the importance of the exams.

Pressure from the parents and universities

Why would strategies like this be necessary?

Apparently there was a survey conducted by the Headmaster’s and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents schools such as Eton, Harrow, Westminster as well as other independent schools.

Some results

Quiet-time95% of the heads who were polled said: “Visible stress related to exams” had increased in their schools over the last 5 years. And more than half, 56%, said that the biggest cause of the children becoming stressed was the pressure from home. And nearly all head teachers (97%) said that they were now asking parents to come to advice sessions and offering parenting classes to deal with the pressure their children were under, and how to help reduce it.

Action

So, it was in reaction to the increasing stress on children that the head of the school, Julia Harrington, created a 3 year research project to examine how to help the children handle the pressure of forthcoming exams.

“I wanted to make sure the girls stopped being afraid of stress”, she said.

The research focused on teaching the pupils pre-planning for exams plus deep breathing techniques.

Do pre-planning and deep breathing techniques work?

herbert-benson-relaxation-responseThe students attended workshops on mental preparation for their exams and deep breathing techniques, to calm themselves down when necessary.

The school staff found an improvement of up to 2 grades in mock GCSE exams, from December 2014 to January 2016. Abigail Leach, 15, was a student at the school and as a result of the workshops, found that her C grades improved to A’s. She said: “It’s been really helpful…I use deep breathing and also try to put the exams into perspective…they are not the be-all and end-all of life.”

We do not know the proportion of pupils who improved their grades so dramatically, but the author of the article, and the teaching staff, seemed very impressed by the overall effect of the research and teaching strategy.

What can all students learn from the outcomes of this project?

Regardless of the type of school or college, and most pupils do not attend independent schools, I think this research should be taken seriously by teachers and pupils or students, and their parents.

There are two powerful reasons why the techniques taught to the girls at the school were beneficial and led to a reduction in stress in the exam room, with the outcome that they were able to perform better in the exam situation.

Deep-breathing

Firstly, the techniques they were taught gave them a sense of control over their bodies and minds and this strengthened their ability to handle stress. The stress response is explained to the students, and demystified, and seen and understood to be a predictable, manageable process that can be reduced if they follow certain procedures.

Stress-response

 

As they learned about their stress response, how it worked and how to handle it, their fear of the unknown would have reduced.

Secondly, if you do deep breathing exercises of any kind, these techniques automatically switch on the ‘relaxation response’ in the body.

This is because the parasympathetic nervous system is triggered by the deep breathing, into secreting hormones in order to decrease blood pressure and heart rate. This is immediately experienced as more pleasurable than the feeling of being stressed, and the learners realize they have the power to create this relaxed feeling as necessary.

Stress-free-environmentConclusion

It is very sad to read about the increase in cases of self-harm, depression, anxiety and eating disorders among pupils in schools, which has been recorded in recent years. This seems highly likely to be the result of the fact that pressure has been racked up by the Universities, who want to reintroduce a sense of competition for places, and by government policies.

But it’s encouraging to think that some schools are taking stress reduction strategies much more seriously, and seeing that not only do exam preparation techniques and stress management strategies help the pupils, but there is a natural increase in academic performance as children become happier and more in control of their bodies and minds.

Of course, now their parents have to learn to calm down. But that’s not the children’s problem!

Having been in the position of helping students to pass exams  for many years, it’s heart-warming to see teachers taking students stress levels seriously and making space for lessons in stress management, in the school system.

Knowing the value of stress management in my own life, I took the time to study for a diploma in stress management; and I have taught stress management strategies in a variety of contexts for more than two decades.

Today, I prefer to teach stress management strategies on an individual basis, in Hebden Bridge.

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor-Tutor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843629

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Reference:

“Top schools teach fretful parents in bid to ease pressure on pupils”, by Sian Griffiths, Page 8, ‘The Sunday Times’, 17th April 2016

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A rave review of “Brain Maker: The power of gut microbes to heal and protect your brain – for life”

Blog Post No. 30

22nd April 2016

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2016

Renata’s Coaching/Counselling blog: A rave review of “Brain Maker: The power of gut microbes to heal and protect your brain – for life” by Dr. David Perlmutter

Introduction

brain-maker-coverIn this blog I’m going to review some of the key elements of this book on brain-mind-body health.  In the process, I will explain to you why I think this is such a useful and surprising book, and how it can help all of us to be happier and healthier, and to enjoy our life more. Then I’ll outline a few of Dr Perlmutter’s dietary guidelines – from which we could all benefit – and then explain why it can be very tough to make changes to your diet on our own.

Why is nutrition important?

If we have to get up in the morning for work, school or college, and we have no energy, that’s bad news, isn’t it?  So we need energy to get things done in life.

So where do we primarily get our energy from? Strictly speaking, from our carbohydrate consumption.  But it’s not quite as simple as that; think of the example of the lethargy of depression.

According to Dr Perlmutter, the state of our guts is very important.

He says, “I’ve found that patients report never feeling anxious or depressed until they start having problems with their guts. Coincidence? I think not. Thankfully studies are finally starting to emerge that show the connection.”

 

Good-b.JPGPerlmutter considers that our mental health and physical wellness are totally affected by the internal systems of bacteria that operate in the gut.

But what happens there? Apparently we’ve all got millions of microbes in our body and most of them live in our digestive tract (10,000 species!). And each of the microbes have their own DNA, and that means that for every human gene in our body, there’s at least 360 microbial ones. These organisms include fungi, bacteria and viruses.

So what do all these microbes do?

These tiny microbes: strongly influence our immune system; affect absorption of nutrients; signal to us whether our stomach is empty or full; and determine our level of inflammation and detoxification (which are directly related to disease and health).

Apparently our guts contain 70-80% of our immune system. They can keep cortisol and adrenalin in check. These are the two major hormones of the stress response that can cause havoc in the body when they are continually triggered and flowing.

Gut-imageAnd our gut microbes influence whether we get: allergies, ADHD, asthma, dementia, cancer and diabetes, a good night’s sleep, or whether we quickly fall prey to disease-causing germs. And there is increasing evidence of a link to anxiety and depression.

Dr Perlmutter makes recommendations for changes in our diet which he says will: treat and prevent brain disorders; alleviate moodiness, anxiety and depression; bolster your immune system and reduce autoimmunity problems; and improve metabolic disorders, including diabetes and obesity, which are all linked to overall brain and body health.

Six essential keys to a healthy gut

gluten-free-food

Perlmutter’s recommendations are very practical and there are six essential keys, which are:

  1. Only eating gluten-free foods;
  2. Consuming healthy fats;
  3. Taking prebiotics (which are functional foods, high in fibre, that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria, helping produce digestive enzymes);
  4. Probiotics (like acidophilus), which stimulate the growth of micro-organisms, especially those with beneficial properties (such as those of the intestinal flora);
  5. Fermented foods (like sauerkraut);
  6. And low-carb foods (such as: Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, high-fat dairy, fats, healthy oils and maybe even some tubers and non-gluten grains).

What’s wrong with gluten?

Article-curing-leaky-gut

I’ll briefly look at his first recommendation, which was “eat gluten-free foods”.

Why does he say that?

Apparently gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley and what it does is damages the lining of our guts, because it causes the release of a protein called gliadin.

What gliadin does is pulls apart the tight junctions that exist between the cells in our guts. The space between the cells start to widen, and the result is that toxins and larger molecules of food (that normally pass through the intestine and are eliminated), begin to leak into the blood circulation system of our bodies.

As a result, you get increased inflammation when your intestinal barrier is compromised. This means that you are susceptible to health challenges such as rheumatoid arthritis, food allergies, asthma, eczema, coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, HIV, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The blood/brain barrier’s integrity is threatened

depression-callourtWhat happens is that the blood-brain barrier (which has been thought of as a “highly protective, fortified portal keeping bad things out of the brain”) is weakened if the gut is leaky, and this lets in molecules that could be really bad for the body, including bacteria, viruses and proteins that would normally have been prevented from crossing the blood/brain barrier.

Dr Perlmutter illustrates in his book how eating gluten harms the gut wall and causes all sorts of problems for the body and brain. I had no idea that gluten was so bad for your guts but I am now more than 80% gluten free, and can report that it is great to be free from having indigestion, which I always used to get after eating bread.

The effects on our mental life of a change of diet is clear to see in the experiments Dr Perlmutter describes, especially in relation to children who have autism.

Cropped-picture-youth-glutensensivity

Perlmutter has presented a lot of case studies in his book.

On his website (www.DrPermutter.com) he presents a picture of one of his clients, Martina, who came to him for anxiety and depression.  He advised Martina to change her diet (gluten-free, prebiotics, probiotics, etc.), and he has presented a “before” and “after” picture of her on his website. The contrast is dramatic.  If you go on his website, and click on “Success” and then go to “Older posts”, which is right down at the bottom of the page, at the left hand side, you will see a picture of Martina before and after treatment from Dr P.

IKnsomnia-calloutBy the way, if you suffer from insomnia, then, on page 85 of his book is a section entitled, “Gut bacteria and a good night’s sleep”. What he says is this: “Balance the gut, break through the insomnia”.

Conclusion

This is just a short introduction to some of the ideas in Perlmutter’s book, which gives lots of evidence to show how mood disorders like anxiety, depression; plus insomnia; and brain diseases of different types; are very influenced by the different types of bacteria in our guts.

And these ideas are now becoming more widely supported.  As Dr Perlmutter writes:

Dr-Perlmutter“New, leading-edge science coming from the most well-respected institutions around the world, is discovering that, to an extraordinary degree, brain health, and on the flipside, brain diseases, are dictated by what goes on in the gut.”

The only difficulty with a book like this is that it challenges our ideas about our daily diets, and asks us to change very deep-seated habits, which isn’t easy!

Why is it so difficult?  Because human beings are by definition creatures of habit.  We operate automatically, and we tend to eat today what we have habitually eaten in the past.

That’s where a coach/ counsellor comes in – because changing our habits can be one of the most difficult things we ever do; and a coach-counsellor who understands behaviour change methodologies can be an essential step in the process.

In previous blogs, I have talked about some of the habit-changing techniques and strategies that I have taught over the years.  And when my coachees do the necessary work, the rewards (of better health, more stable moods, more energy, and a stronger immune system) are invaluable to them.

I hope you take a look at Perlmutter’s website – and the feedback from satisfied clients to Dr Perlmutter.  This could really benefit you, or one of your loved ones.

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor-Tutor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843629

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