Finding Pleasure in Your Life

What’s the first thought that pops into your head when you wake up each morning? Is it that you’re looking forward to what the day will bring? Or could it be that you don’t even really care?

Perhaps there was a time when you couldn’t wait to get your day started, not necessarily because you were doing anything very exciting, but because you got simple delight from simple things. 

If you’re struggling to find that pleasure now, there are a few steps you can take to help yourself.

Let’s say there’s a film you want to see but it’s too much like hard work to go to the cinema. Preparation can help. Check the time of the local screening. Lay out the clothes you’re going to wear beforehand. You’ve already dealt with two of the excuses that typically trip you up.

Next, remember a time that you went to the cinema and enjoyed yourself. What was good about it? What were the sights, sounds and smells that made it pleasurable for you? Now, imagine yourself at the cinema, enjoying the big screen experience and feeling pleased that you made the trip. In this way you can build a positive anticipation of the coming event.

So, did you make it to the cinema? Now it’s time reflect on how good the film was, how good it was to see a film on the big screen, what it felt like to leave the house and enjoy some entertainment. Review the steps that you needed to go through in order to get there. Were they actually as bad as you imagined them to be? Maybe the next time won’t be so bad after all.

Time to Take a Deep Breath?

“Take a deep breath” is what people might say to you if you’re feeling anxious. You hear it so often it sounds like a cliche. But what is it about breathing that that affects the way we feel?

When you’re anxious, your breathing can become more rapid and shallow. Your body is trying to take in oxygen as quickly as possible, getting ready to deal with a possible threat. This is called the ‘fight or flight’ response. The problem arises when there isn’t a threat, but your body still responds as if there is.

So what can you do? You can try to slow your breathing down, by counting to five as you breathe out: one elephant, two elephant, and so on to five. This gives your mind something to focus on instead of what is causing your distress. It also means that you are taking control of one of your bodily functions; you can do this, even if you can’t control what is happening around you.

For more ideas about how to manage anxiety, check out No Panic.

What are BAME Voices?

While working as a counsellor at Lancaster University, I co-created ‘BAME Voices’. This initiative gave students from ‘black and minority ethnic backgrounds’ the opportunity to have sessions with a similarly identifying practitioner.

There were limitations to this. The term ‘BAME’ implies that lots of people somehow fit into one identity. As I continue in my practice, I will focus on what John Burnham called the ‘social graces‘. There are many ways in which we understand and try to make sense of ourselves. I will strive to stay open to what is most important to my clients.

World Mental Health Day

Shouldn’t every day be a world mental health day? The World Health Organization wants mental health to be a top global priority. It matters that we have good services that provide support in a timely manner; it’s also important that we do what we can to look after ourselves.

What can help to improve your mental health and wellbeing? Are you getting enough sleep? How often do you go outside? Do you spend time with people whose company you enjoy? All of these factors can affect your wellbeing, but there is a danger that they become part of a tick box exercise: seven hours of sleep – tick; half an hour outside – tick.

Instead, I would invite you to reflect on what has worked in the past for you. Think back to an occasion when you felt safe; content; cared for; happy; rested. What was the situation? Where were you? Was there anyone else there? Do you recall any images, sounds or scents? Take a few moments to reflect on this and notice any feelings that you might experience as you do so. Now, consider whether you are able to draw inspiration from this process. Even if you are not able to recreate the situation, you now have a mental image to reach for in stressful times.

Seeking support in an abusive relationship

In her memoir Brutally Honest, Mel B wrote about her experience of being in an abusive relationship. At the recent Conservative Party conference she joined Farah Nazeer, of Women’s Aid, to talk about their latest research. If this is your situation and you are struggling, there is support available. It might be that the first step that you want to take is to talk to someone.