For many things in life, the timing of an event can be critical. When to text your date from Tuesday, but are trying to play hard to get with, now that is critical timing. But when it comes to seeking help for mental health concerns, timing tends to align more with the saying “better late than never”. For many of us, making that first appointment takes a lot of courage, and we still are not certain what we expect will come out of it. For those individuals, therapy is usually about planting the seeds for readiness for change. One might worry what the consequences of attending therapy will be, but generally, other than the financial cost of receiving private mental health support, getting support from a registered and qualified professional usually does not hold any notable risks. Therefore, the earlier you seek support the easier it is to learn ways to help prevent things from getting worse, support yourself better, cope better, or see yourself and your problems in a new light.
As long as you have a goal in mind and are open to making changes, therapy can be extremely helpful not just for those who have severe mental illness, but also those who desire to grow emotionally.
Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on the application of psychology for self improvement, rather than the resolution of illness. Therefore, its emphasis is on health promotion and focussing on what is going well rather than on pathology. As the stigma associated with therapy continues to shrink, seeking counselling/therapy services for the purpose of goal attainment and wellness rather than treatment of clinical psychopathology is growing. Seeking a regulated therapist is more like finding a “coach” who is trained to help guide you toward your goals.
One of my first posts on Wellness Wednesday tackled the ever relevant topic of attention and provided several tips to improve focus and concentration during the day. Today, I wanted to follow up on that post and explore memory, a different but highly interrelated ability. Indeed, if we do not pay attention, we definitely are unable to encode information into our memory storage systems.
In order to understand how to improve our memory we need to understand how memory works. Current theories of memory focus on three distinct stages: sensory memory; short-term memory; and, long-term memory. It is a common misconception that the briefer aspects of memory are far lengthier than they really are. For instance, sensory memory is only 2-3 seconds and short term memory only naturally lasts around 20-30 seconds. While we may be able to do a series of tricks to make those first two stages seem like they are lasting a bit longer, what you are probably most interested in is improving is your long term memory.
The best way to “improve” your long term memory is to make sure that you encode information properly so that it is stored in long term memory. You also want to make sure that the information is encoded in a manner that is easily retrieved where and when you need it.
Consider the file folder system at an old school doctors office with hundreds of patient files are filed alphabetically by last name. Our brain's memory storage is surprisingly similar to this. If we do not file information in an organized way, we will have immense difficulty retrieving the information when needed from those long-term memory stores.
Now that we have a bit of background on how memory works, let us get started on some basic memory strategies that you can use (or maybe you are already using intuitively) to help yourself be more productive each day.
Four memory strategies that you can start using today:
Give one of these techniques a try and let me know which helps your memory the most. Do you have any other memory strategies that you find help?
Several weeks ago I told you about how I was exploring my hobbies by joining a ceramics classes (CLICK HERE if you would like a refresher or missed the original post). This, as you may recall, was part of my commitment to challenge myself to learn a new skill. One course and a few colourful bowls later, I am here to share what I took from the experience.
If you challenged yourself to take part in a new hobby or activity during 2019, take some time to reflect on what you were able to take away from the experience. Did you get anything out of it that you did not anticipate? What sorts of activities and opportunities could lay ahead for you this year?
Last week we discussed how writing down one’s resolutions and creating a SMART goals structure can help one get started on some actionable changes for the new year. While a lot of us are pretty good at getting started, keeping these resolutions can be a bit more challenging.
It is pretty clear that gyms are busier in January and then go back to normal by March. We need to acknowledge that it is hard to keep resolutions and sometimes we fall off the “perfect streak” we have been striving for.
It is important for us to accept that we must revisit our resolutions throughout the process and alter them once we have a better sense of how realistic they are. Go back to the SMART goals framework and ask yourself… “was it really that realistic for me to commit to going to the gym every day?”
There is a difficult balance between choosing a resolution that is a challenge and simultaneously realistic.
Media often postulates that it takes about “30 days” to form a habit. Challenging yourself to reach that 30 day point might, in fact, be exactly what it takes to let that goal become part of your lifestyle routines. When trying to maintain motivation, I think it is best to look at things day-by-day instead of reminding yourself that you need to maintain this change forever. If you can focus on doing your best each day, after 30 days it might not feel so difficult.
But what happens if you do slip up during that first month? I would suggest that you try not to let that “slip” lead to you giving up entirely on your goals. Remind yourself that you are human and that changes to lifestyle routines are difficult to implement and maintain. You may also want to determine whether you set too many goals. Try focusing on one behaviour change at a time.
Most importantly, do not shame yourself for slip ups, but rather use it as a behaviour marker to improve upon (e.g., “I made it 8 days on this streak, let’s start again and see if I can beat it”).
If you have not already started a resolution for the new year, here are ten ideas that don’t include the obvious diet and exercise goals:
Last week we discussed the importance of looking behind us and trying to be open to honest feedback before looking ahead. Today we explore what looking ahead really entails and how to set goals for the new year.
Making resolutions is something that is commonly associated with the start of a new year. Seeing as this year is also the start of a new decade, it is definitely a good time to set some goals and plan out how you are going to work towards reaching them.
I find that writing things down helps to make goals and intentions a stronger commitment, at least to yourself. Sure, your personal journal is not a formal contract, but seeing things in writing can be helpful in making you feel more accountable.
In the past, I have written down both short and long term goals. I find that having both are important to consider, as short term goals can help momentum, while the long term plans can give you a direction to aim for.
While some of us may feel more comfortable working towards these goals privately, the push of a supportive group of peers can also help move you towards success. An increasing trend is to get together with a few peers, perhaps with some optionally healthy snacks and drinks, to make a fun evening out of goal setting for the new year.
Goals can be as common as going to the gym, eating healthier, taking that exam you have been putting off, or as unique and personal as having the resolution of being more mindful of others feelings when in family settings.
What is important when writing down your resolutions is to have in mind the framework of SMART goals: Specific: Measurable; Attainable; Relevant; and Timely. If we are clear on why a resolution is significant to our lives and how we plan to go about working towards it, it is much easier to assess our progress and start turning that goal into action.
This year, as I contemplate my own resolutions, I am asking myself what change will lead 2020 to be a better year than 2019.
Jessica is a member of the clinical wellness and learning support team at FLEX Psychology. Jessica started Wellness Wednesday out of a desire to provide further opportunities for her clients to extend their wellness journey to all avenues of their life. You can learn more about Jessica by clicking here or by learning more about her and the clinical team at FLEX Psychology by clicking here.