Thanks to all of you who had nice things to say about my efforts in yesterday’s Sydney Marathon. I had been putting in early morning training all through the winter months, so having the opportunity to run around the streets of Sydney, unhampered by traffic, and in spring- time daylight, was a great reward.
I have been running regularly for about ten years. When I first started I would go around the block, alternating between running and walking the distance between telegraph poles. After a few weeks I managed to run the whole block without walking. Then I just kept trying to run a little farther each time. What I really liked was that there was no special equipment or costs (except shoes), I could do it any time of day or day of the week, there was no skill to master, and I only had to open my front door to get to the training venue.
Since then I have really come to enjoy running and it is definitely an essential part of my life and one of the ways I maintain balance and wellbeing. Apart from the obvious benefits to physical health, running also has many positive impacts on memory and learning, mood, anxiety and sleep. Its for these reasons that I always encourage people to give running a try if they struggle with feeling down, unmotivated, anxious, or low in confidence. So if this sounds like you, why not give it a try and let me know how you go. Jon
Meet Ted - this morning he woke up late because his alarm was incorrectly set to “pm”, on the way to work he was cut off in traffic and couldn’t find a park. At work he had too many interruptions to get his work done, then when he got home kids wouldn’t stop arguing. After dinner he tried to get online but it kept buffering. He went to bed feeling defeated and depressed.
Ted’s experience is a common one. The day starts off on the wrong foot and everything seems to snow-ball from there into the recognisable “bad day story”.
But with practice even a dedicated pessimist like Ted can learn how to identify and strengthen the *positive emotions* which spontaneously occur each day. And if Ted can do it so can you. The truth is that some of us are born naturally more depressive and pessimistic than others. If you tend to think this way then you will find it easier to recall depressive and negative aspects of your day rather than the optimistic and happy parts. This is not so bad in itself but it can undermine your emotional wellbeing and this has been shown to have a direct impact on your relationships, physical health, and even life expectancy.
But real improvements in these areas can be made if you accept that recognising positive emotions is a skill you can learn. And skills are improved with practice and repetition.
For example, Psychologist Martin Seligman has shown that people can make measurable improvements in mood, happiness, and life satisfaction by making a new nightly habit. To do this you spend a couple of minutes revising the day and identifying three things that ** went well** and also **why it went well** and then write these three things down.
I have tried this exercise myself and often recommended it to clients. It’s sometimes hard to get started but it is always a surprise to people to recognise how much of life they let go by unnoticed, preferring instead to focus on “what went wrong and why”.
So with practice, Ted might learn see new elements in the “bad day story” we heard about earlier. Over time his state of mind will shift towards a more open and balanced interpretation of life.
In addition to all the things that Ted noticed in his “bad day story”, he could also learn to see that his shirts were ironed and his coffee was hot; he felt the Spring sun on his forehead in the morning; he heard his favourite song on the radio on the way to work; he received some positive feedback on a project he’d been working on at work; and he watched TV with his wife because the internet was broken.
This year Psychology Week (6th -12th November) will be focusing on improving wellbeing through the promotion of exercises like this from Martin Seligman’s *Flourish* theory of happiness which is described in five steps Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement. Over the next few weeks I will be writing about these aspects of happiness with suggestions for ways that you can make these changes in your own life.
Today is World Autism Awareness Day, which is an annual day to increase understanding of the Autism Spectrum Disorders, and to improve the acceptance of people with these types of diagnosis.
Autism is characterised by lifelong trouble with social communication and interactions, as well as repetitive and limited behaviours, interests, and activities. It is described as a “spectrum” because it is identifiable in a range of intensities and this affects how much support people need with the disorder.
Because Autism is about communication troubles and narrow interests, it is often difficult for people without Autism to understand those with the condition, and vice versa. This can be very isolating, frustrating, and frightening for both children and adults with the condition. Of course having Autism does not mean that you are less emotionally sensitive or less intelligent than anyone else, so people with the condition often become anxious and depressed because of the isolation and rejection they feel from others.
These additional problems can be addressed through psychotherapy, however a better solution is to help create an environment which accepts that people with Autism are part of the bigger picture of what it means to be human. This way we can all learn to appreciate the frustration and loneliness that may come with Autism, but even more importantly, we can create a better society by appreciating and incorporating skills and ideas that come with different minds and perspectives.
Research shows that early diagnosis and intervention is key in helping people Autism Spectrum Disorders thrive. By doing this, parents, teachers, and caregivers are able to tailor their approaches to support children in the way that best suits their needs, preferences, and abilities.
For those of you who are wondering about their toddlers, I have included a link to an Autism screening tool (M-CHAT-R) which is designed for use for children between 16 and 30 months (2 and half years). I stress that this is a guide only, but it may help you to decide whether it is worth speaking to your GP or psychologist for further assessment.