It was a day full of anticipation, full of excitement and of the unknown.
When you hear about TED, your mind immediately gets drawn to all kinds of images, big crowds, the Madonna mic, the red circle, hard-hitting and inspiring talks. TEDx Glasgow had it all and it was such a joy and an honour to have been a part of it.
Speaking is one of those things that I have a strange connection with. I’ve always been a good communicator when academic performances were poor growing up, I was always able to communicate well with others. There is something about speaking in front of large groups that causes huge anxiety but also creates enormous excitement.
I suppose in some ways it’s like the person that does ultra marathons. We might think that it’s terrifying, anxiety-provoking and gut-wrenching, the person that does the ultra marathon would probably agree, but they are still going to sign up for the next one.
I feel similarly with regards to speaking, I love it, I love the buzz and the anticipation. If I’m honest, I love the idea of communicating expertise and knowledge to a group of willing ears.
This passion for speaking and my passion for mental health and especially men’s mental health drew me to TEDx Glasgow. With over 2,000 people in attendance, it’s one of the biggest TEDx platforms on earth.
It was a number of months of applying and going through different rounds of the application process, finally hearing that I had been accepted as a speaker a few months before the talk.
I was immediately assigned a coach who was incredible and who I met with each week. We discussed the topic of my talk, The Male Identity Crisis. We looked at the message I wanted to convey and how I would manage this in just 8 minutes.
This was unlike any talk I had ever given before. I had to do more than just communicate research and empirical findings, I had to illustrate my story and discuss why this topic was so important to me.
I was anxious about memorising my script. It was 8 minutes long and I had no idea how I was going to memorise all the words and sentences that my coach and I had so painstakingly gone through with a fine-tooth comb. My dyslexia means that its really difficult for me to absorb the written word at times. As a result, I decided to create some illustrations of my talk notes.
This has always been helpful for me, rather than memorising words, I could memorise the images and remember what words I needed to say when each image popped up in my mind.
You can check out those images below here:
Men’s mental health is not only the main focus of my research on my counselling psychology doctorate, but it is also my passion. The fact that 78% of all suicides are completed by men, that 84 men a week take their own lives and that only one-third of the population of people in therapy are men.
The statistics are staggering and for me, one of the biggest contributing factors to the epidemic of men’s mental health and suicide is male identity and how we view men.
The way that men are viewed in society today, with what I think ha an element of a predatory nature, is the biggest component of men’s mental illness and male suicide I feel. In many ways, men are now encouraged to be vulnerable, to talk about how they feel and to seek help. However, at the same time, men are still expected to adhere to stereotypical masculine norms like being autonomous, not showing emotion and never asking for help.
It’s this conflicting identity that I feel leads to this male identity crisis and ultimately to men’s mental illness and male suicide.
The day finally arrived and it brought with it everything I had come to stereotypically associate with TED events. Massive crowds, the TED logo everywhere, art and different types of performers. It was amazing and difficult to not get drawn into the anxiety that came with speaking on such a platform.
I was keen to be around people as much as possible, I’m not someone that finds massive benefit in isolated moments during such anxious times. I spoke to family members and friends and chatted to volunteers in the green room.
I checked out a couple of the talks from some of the other amazing speakers and got prepared by rehearsing my full talk with my coach.
Waiting backstage was, of course, nerve raking but I was excited to get going.
The most anxious moment was getting strapped up with the mic and standing at the side of the stage, ready to give my talk.
Walking to the red circle felt like it took 20 minutes but when I got there, I was able to look out and felt a sense of confidence that I could remember my talk and communicate it well.
I always find that once you face a fear and prepare well in advance, you gain a real sense of accomplishment and joy from overcoming something that was originally a barrier for you. That’s exactly how I felt with this.
Doing my GetPsyched videos was of course initially nerve raking, no one really likes being filmed initially. However, that eventually became routine. This was very very different.
In truth, I have to say I really enjoyed every second of giving my talk. The joy of this whole process, the months of preparing, rehearsing and amending my script all concluded with what was an awesome day.
Since then the opportunities for speaking and connecting with others have really grown, but I don’t want this blog post to be just about me. I want to give some advice and belief to people that want to undertake a TED talk but perhaps think it’s out of their reach.
So, here are some of my top tips for getting started:
You absolutely are capable of doing it. TED talks might have a huge global status and platform but that doesn’t mean you can’t apply or speak. TED is looking for innovating and interesting ideas, we all have those. So my first piece of advice is to believe that this is an option for you.
When thinking of an idea to talk about, it doesn’t have to be a “never before heard of” topic. It could be a topic that we all understand but given a different angle due to your subject appreciation. Think about a topic you love and how that topic might be appreciated different because of your own living experience.
Apply! You could spend months building up the courage and constructing ideas, but you’ll get nowhere if you don’t send that application form!
The important thing is not about how well you know the topic, or how smart you can sound. The key to any process with a TED talk is to discuss what it means to you. What is your story connected to your topic? How can people connect with the story through you?
I encourage anyone thinking about doing something like this to go for it. TEDx Glasgow is one of the most incredible events and one of the biggest honours of my life!
I love studying. Prior to my seven-year
psychology degree, I started three other degrees. I love learning, I love
researching, I love growing, but mostly, I love writing. The sense of
achievement that follows looking at a finished document that didn’t exist
before provides me with such satisfaction.
I grieved after completing my degree, over the end of that part of my life.
Such was the loss, I wandered aimlessly,
wondering how to fill my days. How to fill the gap in the joy, calm and sense
of achievement that writing had fulfilled.
Before, I had sat in my favourite chair in the sun and listened to the tap tap of the keys and I turned my thoughts into pages and pages of my thesis. I sipped tea and felt the warmth on my skin and worked at my all-consuming task. I hadn’t ever predicted the ritual would leave such a gaping hole in my life and my wellbeing.
Soon after finishing my degree, I returned to writing for other reasons.
Diagnosed with breast cancer, I began journaling in the form of letters to my grandmother, my nan, who had died four years earlier. I found I could connect with her throughout my time of need by putting pen to paper and in doing so, her answers to my questions and the love and support I knew she would have given revealed themselves, loudly and clearly. Comfort.
Cancer treatment, hair, breasts, ovaries all came and went and soon I felt well enough to search for meaning in all that had just happened in my life. What if, as a psychologist, one who had worked extensively with cancer patients, I had a message to share that might alleviate someone else’s burden of illness just a little? I knew I had something to share, something of value, and decided to write a book.
I joined a writing class and in three years my breast cancer memoir, A Hole in my Genes, was complete. Revisiting my old friend, the writing process, brought me stunning mindful calm and a sense of achievement like no other, in the form of meaning for my cancer experience.
However, with the words ‘The End’ came another grieving period, my all-consuming ritual ended once again. It had been a catharsis. It assisted with my processing of facing my mortality. It had allowed me to express a myriad of emotions safely, yet fully. Writing had saved my life.
Fast forward a matter of weeks and the urge to write, to create, to express myself tugged at my thoughts ever so strongly and I knew I need a new writing project.
A coffee, a dog walk, and some tossing around of ideas with a photographer friend one afternoon saw the birth of The Psychology of It.
As psychologists, psycho-education is one of our most valuable and most utilised tools.
When our clients can understand the what,
why, when and how of a disorder, or a reaction, an emotion, a behaviour, they
are more than half-way towards knowing how to choose the most effective coping
tools to manage their situation.
Therapy is an interesting beast and I know for myself at least, I go through phases of using particular interventions,particular stories and metaphors and I certainly have my go-to examples thattend to help most people understand a variety of topics.
I noticed that I would find myself repeating the same information, using the same analogies, drawing the same diagrams over, and over again, day in and day out, wishing a resource existed, using my language, to direct my clients to.
Of course, there are amazing resources online but mostly they specialised in certain areas, were too science-y, too self-help-y, or were generally too ‘something’ that my clients wouldn’t read.
Enter Stage Left, The Psychology of It.
The Psychology of It website is where it all began. I adore writing in many different formats and so created a website with five different categories. As a psychologist, the evidence-based research and science is key to efficacious work. We are scientist-practitioners and are always evaluating the work we do with our clients, as well as keeping up-to-date with the latest best practice principles. A lot of the time however, this information is only available in research journals and not easy tounderstand for the general community.
So, I began with a section called Analyse This, where we were able to interpret the more scientific information in a user-friendly way. There are descriptions of different disorders as well as information about different treatment modalities, and articles that describe why certain human experiences are so.
In the name of being user-friendly, I wanted a quick reference guide to a number of easy-to-learn coping tools that people could access and easily understand. These are the tools I’m teaching my clients every single day and so to have an article I can print out for them, or direct them too after a session to reinforce the skill they have learned that day, is invaluable. Those articles are found in The Coping Toolkit.
I also wanted a space to write about personal opinions and experiences. The main aim of The Psychology of It is to normalise human experiences, reduce the stigma and highlight the similarities we have as human beings, as opposed to always focussing on the differences. I didn’t always want to have to be scientific about things and noticed that a lot of people are more likely to read information if it’s presented in a more personal format. This is where Up Close & Personal came in.
Another main aim for The Psychology of It is to connect us all, human to human, again by highlighting the similarities we experience as humans. Conversations on the Couch does that beautifully by introducing people from all walks of life and ‘interviewing’ them, using the same set of questions that explore their personal life experiences and opinions, identifying their unique outlooks but also highlighting their commonalities with others. This section helps us feel as though we’re not the ‘only one’. In fact, Fraser has his own Conversation on the Couch up on the website. You can find it here.
Finally, I realised there might have to be a ‘miscellaneous’ category which I named New Things. Whether it be new resources, new experiences, new people, it’s a section where almost anything fits.
As well as the five sections filled with articles by some wonderful guest writers, we also keep a resource list called Stuff We Like. It’s always needing updating so if you have any recommendations, please don’t hesitate to let me know!
In the world of social media, The Psychology of It is linked to a Facebook page with over 3000 followers, and also on Instagram and Twitter. These all allow for further reach for the messages we’d like to spread, reducing the stigma of mental illness, and pushing the barrow for mental health, messages of wellbeing and the importance of self-care.
The Psychology of It is growing and in many ways has taken on a life of its own.
This year, it has also become a clinical practice in south-west Victoria, Australia. This practice allows me to work as the type of clinician I’ve also aspired to be. Many sessions with clients are starting to be conducted outside of the clinic walls where we take the practice of the skills learned in session, into real life. Clients are booking in for mindful walking, running, eating sessions. I’ve also purchased two stand-up paddleboards so that in the warmer months, mindful breathing and grounding sessions can be conducted on our beautiful rivers and ocean. Within the next few weeks, I’ll be undertaking a Trauma-based Yoga for Clinicians workshop and am excited for what doors that may open for me both personally and professionally.
To top it all off, I’m extending the messages of the importance of self-care, well-being and preventative mental health by hosting The Psychology of It’s first international Wellbeing Retreat in Bali, Indonesia. To find out more about that, you can go to http://thepsychologyofit.com.au/retreat.html.
I’m so excited to be combining the science of psychology, with the ancient wisdom of yoga led by my close friend and colleague Peta Jolley, in the stunning heart of Bali. We are looking forward toa week of companionship, learning, personal exploration and growth, not to mention stunning experiences and the most amazing wellness food on the planet. Mindful Tribes have designed such a wonderful boutique experience for us and we’d love for you to join us.
In the meantime, A Hole in my Genes iscurrently at the publisher’s and will be available before the end of the year. I’ll keep you up to date and would love to offer the GetPsyched community a nice big discount.
Being productive is something we probably all wish we could be. We seek out ways to make ourselves more productive and can get pretty down on ourselves when we lack the ability to be productive.
In truth, in today’s day in age, it’s never been harder to be consistently productive.
We are swarmed with opportunities to have our attention drawn in unproductive ways.
We sit down at our computers and demand that we work harder and better…but you’ve just found this iPhone game in the app store, and you just cannot previous high score on Angry Birds!!!!!…this of course was an example given to me by my friend, nothing to do with my own experiences…cough cough.
As much as smartphones and new technology can be hugely beneficial, they can also be misused and can be a major distraction for us in our attempts to be productive.
How then do we become more productive?
How do we learn to get rid of distractions and not let them be a part of the reason why we struggle to get our best work done?
Well, as always, psychology is here to help!
Psychological research and psychological principles can help us learn how to be more productive.
So, what does the research say we should do?
A study in 2011 showed that exercise helps not only young child to stay focussed but adults too, meaning that if you invest time in exercise then you are going to consistently see improvements in your ability to be more productive.
Now, studies have shown that different forms of exercise help focus and productivity in different ways.
Short bursts help with short-term attention spans.
However, studies have shown that those that perform 10 hours of exercise a week have sustained attention spans.
So the more we invest in exercise, exercising consistently and over a longer period of time, then the more likely we are to see improvements in our attention and thus our productivity.
Spend time with nature
Studies have shown the huge mental and emotional benefits of spending time outside in natural environments can have.
So much so that spending time in nature is becoming a more common treatment for children with ADHD, with great effect.
Even as much as simply viewing trees and greenery from your window can have massive benefits for calmness and increasing productivity, studies have suggested.
The benefits of having an ability to be in nature are huge for our productivity levels.
However, not everyone can leave their desk at lunch and head out into the woods…really only Bear Grylls does this.
So, what else can you do?
Well, these studies that look at how nature influences our productivity levels showed that just having some plants in your office can have a similar impact on productivity.
So, the bottom line here is, if you can’t get out in the woods often then buy a Ficus.
Turn off your distractions
In 2015 the Journal of Experimental Psychology published a study that suggested that a distraction lasting just 2.8 seconds can double a person’s chances of making errors in their work.
Distractions are the enemy to productivity.
They are the anti-productivity so to speak.
As a result, they need to be destroyed…well not totally, they at least need to be turned off.
This is an easy thing to consider, but hard to do. What I would say here is, turn your phone off for an hour a day and build it up from there.
Take regular brief mental breaks
You might think working on something for hours means productivity.
You might think that because you haven’t got off your desk chair in 7 hours then you have been productive.
However, more often than not the exact opposite is the case.
You need to take regular mental breaks if you are going to experience increases in productivity.
There’s a difference between being busy and being productive.
The Journal of Cognition published a study in 2011 that found that people that took short breaks of about 5 minutes every 50 minutes were far more productive than those that took no breaks.
So the bottom line here is, take regular breaks away from your work and watch your productivity increase
I started my YouTube channel GetPsyched just over a year ago. The object was for me to engage with a wider audience, to take on the role as a voice for psychology students and people just generally interested in psychology.
As I developed my YouTube channel, I also invested in developing my social media accounts.
From there, things really took off for me. I was seeing weekly growth and deeper engagement with a larger audience of psychology students and professionals and people just generally interested in psychology.
However, about six months into the development of GetPsyched. PsychReg invited me to speak at their upcoming international conference in the Philippines.
I was blown away. After an incredible amount of work and extra effort, I was gaining enough recognition to be asked as a speaker at a huge conference.
The conference itself with incredible. There were speakers and delegates from all over the world that sought to communicate revolutionary findings in psychology and education, as well as network and experience a new and diverse culture.
The Philippines and New Era University in Quezon City, Manila welcomed us with unapparelled hospitality.
The students and delegates that attended the conference had such an interesting background of experiences and a strong desire to learn more.
Throughout the conference, each speaker had the opportunity to engage with attendees that wanted to learn more about their topics. Seeing such an enthusiasm for psychology and education was amazing to witness.
It made me think more about the responsibility we hold as people that work and study in psychology and education. Our research and our learning outcomes are not only applicable to the country where we work but all over the world too.
We live in an age where we can share ideas, thoughts and findings to massive audiences across the world. As a result, new collaborative approaches to things such as mental health, schooling of young children and human rights can be shared and developed. This conference was an illustration of all of this. It was an opportunity to share amongst new colleagues and witness new ideas unfold.
My presentation was on my recent findings on a widespread literature review of men’s mental health.
I covered concepts such as toxic masculinity, male identity and issues with therapeutic uptake in men.
The opportunity itself was genuinely life-changing. I found myself on the other side of the world with some of the most prominent and inspiring figures in the field of psychology and education.
After being unsure as to whether developing online content in psychology was a good idea, I cannot describe how grateful I am to PsychReg and all others that have supported me in developing GetPsyched.
I suppose this post is not one of new information or insight, or perhaps for some, it is. I hope that this article can be utilised as motivation for anyone considering stepping out into a new domain, or those willing to think outside the box a little.
Taking a step of faith and being consistent with what you develop and the passion you show for what you do will always work! It will always provide you with what you hope for and so much more! There is no downside to working hard, showing extra effort and developing your passion for something you care about. There will only always be positivity, and at times opportunities that you cannot believe have presented themselves.
It’s a term that’s used to help people realise and achieve goals and dreams, but what do we mean exactly by visualisation and what impact can it actually have?
Well, fundamentally visualisation is a cognitive tool used to picture exactly what you want to happen.
In doing so we are creating all aspects of the scenario that we to experience or obtain. Now, I mean everything, so that could be sounds, sights, smells, feelings.
The more realistic the visualisation you take part in and the more it stimulates you, the more impact it will have in you realising and moving closer to what you want to achieve.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter gives a fantastic explanation of what visualisation is and its power:
“A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more”
So, with this depiction, we can start to understand that visualisation is an opportunity for us to try and control what we are struggling to control.
It is a tool that helps us create what we want to see and achieve.
This all sounds great, ideal, give me some visualisation!
Well, hold on for a second. What is important when thinking about concepts that talk about how they are the key to success, is to look at the research.
What does psychology say about visualisation?
Well, often in psychological services, visualisation boards are used to help illustrate what the client is seeking.
These external tools can help in keeping the client focussed on visualisation.
Visualisation boards are often used for people that want a better future, a healthier lifestyle and even for those attempting to overcome addiction.
In psychological services, concrete objects are often utilised to help with the process of visualisation.
This is often used with patients with depression to visualise a better future and used to great effect.
These concrete objects can include things such as pictures in wallets for example, or mementoes that the individual carries with them.
Visualisation is also used in psychological and therapeutic services for patients with severe anxiety to create mental holidays to retreat to a calmer environment.
This might sound abstract but it has been shown to have incredible effects.
So, it’s clear then that visualisation techniques can be used to incredible effect in therapeutic and psychological contests but where else is visualisation used?
Where else is visualisation used?
Well the easiest one to appreciate perhaps is in the world of sports
Athletes will spend huge amounts of time visualising good performances.
Recent research has in fact inferred that spending time visualising performances and potential different outcomes and responses in sports settings have as much a role to play in how well an athlete performs the practice itself.
I watched the Winter Olympics earlier in the year and saw bob slay team captains pretending to go through the motions of the full course in their minds.
They would turn in ways that they would expect when they go down the track, all to ensure that they fully utilise the power of visualisation.
Visualisation can also be really effectively utilised in a studying context.
For example, you might visualise exams and coursework that you have due. Visualising what questions, you might get asked and best to answer them are all really powerful ways of utilising visualisation in studying.
The trick here, with regards to anything in visualisation, is to go through the entire process.
Don’t just focus on one questions in an exam or one move on the sports field. Visualise the full thing in its entirety.
That means, from waking up that day, to what you have for breakfast, to walking to school or the gym, to entering the room and sitting down and opening the paper…you get the idea.
The important thing is that you go through as many different scenarios in your head in as much detail as possible.
This way, you teach yourself not to expect anything unpredictable. You also reassure yourself of the different outcomes that could happen and how you might react as a result.
How can you use visualisation to great effect in your everyday life?
Well, you might to create your own visualisation board and keep it somewhere that you will see it every day. Whenever you walk past it, take some time to visualise what it is you desire as you look at the pictures.
When I was studying for exams, I used to pin my notes and mind maps around my house and when I went to the fridge for milk, there would be some notes there, I would take my time and read them through and visualise how I might use them in a potential question in an exam.
When I went to go out the front door, there would be another page of notes and I would do the same.
I was utilising visualisation to improve my upcoming performances.
Fundamentally guys, visualisation is seriously powerful, it’s not just a generic term thrown around by people who think they know what they are talking about, it has real psychological backing and is a toll that you can use every day to achieve and progress more in whatever you want to do.
Interested in learning more about visualisation? The check out the recent video I did about the psychology of visualisation on my YouTube channel GetPsyched by clicking the link here.
Part of the reason why I love psychology so much is that it’s not just for professors and academics.
Psychological principles can be used by anyone who has a little understanding to great effect.
I once had a psychology tutor who told me that as psychology students, we were at an extreme advantage with regards to studying for classes, assignments and exams.
We already knew what worked and what didn’t work.
We were learning the very techniques and principles that other fields tried to apply to their study patterns and regimes.
Learning new things is one of those concepts that we all wish we could be better at.
We might here new and interesting information, yet struggle to retain it and access it when we need it most.
Psychology and psychological principles can help with this though. There are numerous ways in which psychology can help us learn new things better.
You can find out so much more information on how psychology can help you learn new things better by checking out a video I did on this subject on my YouTube channel GetPsyched. Check out the video by clicking here.
In this article, I am going to give you a number of psychologically backed principles and interventions you can use to learn new things better.
So, let’s get to it.
STATE DEPENDENT RECALL
This basically means you have a place where you learn stuff.
A secluded and quiet location where you do your most profound thinking and learning.
Use this place often and make it your environment to absorb new information.
For me personally, that would be my back bedroom that has a desk in it, I can sit on my office chair and feel comfortable in that environment to give my full attention to what I am learning.
It’s peaceful, has natural light, and is simplistic and minimalistic enough to the point where I won’t get distracted.
What’s more is that when the door is shut, others know that I’m really busy or invested in a task and don’t want to be disturbed.
Put it this way, you’re not going to learn new stuff best if you keep changing the environment, at a bar or watching TV for example.
THE FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERROR
This sound fancy but it basically means holding yourself accountable for your own learning.
If you think others learn stuff better because they are just smarter than you, then your suffering from the fundamental attribution error.
Holding yourself accountable for your learning and thinking about what you can do to improve it will always assist in learning new things.
Now, this is a technique often used in classrooms by teachers.
It basically means extending the amount of time before trying to recall something you have learned.
By increased the time between recall, you improve our ability to learn the new information
You can try this out yourself pretty easily actually. Learn something new and give yourself 5 minutes to then recall it by memory. If you get it then extend that 5 minutes to 30 minutes, then an hour, 6 hours, a day, 3 days and so on.
To the point where you can recall the information over a large amount of time.
By extending the period of time between recalling new information, we stretch our brain and memory continually to the point where it is forced to keep responding to new and challenging circumstances.
As a result, we not only learn new things better, but we also retain them at an improved rate.
This basically means you should try and learn new things via more than one method.
If you simply read something new and leave it at that, then your limiting yourself and your ability to learn and retain new information.
You could try some of the following examples as learning tools that could be used together. Draw a picture of what you are trying to learn, create a mind map, or speak it out to yourself.
By increasing the number of learning tools and format’s, you learn much faster.
THE METHOD OF LOCI
This sounds a bit weird but it’s a form of mnemonics that help you remember new information better.
Used by the ancient Greeks, you remember new information by the location that you place them in in your mind.
In the modern day, people have been able to memorise thousands of pieces of new information via this method.
They didn’t start out like this, but what they do is actually construct full cities in their head and place each piece of new information in different areas, locations and buildings around this city in order to memorise this new and vastly complex information very quickly and effectively.
There are ways that you can use this tool for yourself. For example, remembering items or pieces of information by storing them in different rooms in a house you have created in your mind has been shown to have incredible effects for learning new things.
This is a technique that you really need to try out for yourself!
UNDERSTAND YOUR WORKING MEMORIES CAPACITY
Your working memory, which is your ability to retain different pieces of useful information, has a limit.
This limit usually is capped at around 7 pieces of new information in most circumstances.
By understanding this better, you can schedule your breaks better that we spoke about earlier and retain more accurate new information more effectively and over longer and more sustained periods of time.
UNDERSTAND YOUR METACOGNITION
Firstly, what is metacognition?
Its fundamentally our ability to assess and understand our own skills and learning capabilities.
By understanding your own metacognition you’ll begin to see that you perhaps aren’t taking enough time to learn new information.
Cognitive psychologists have time and time again found that a lack of understanding of metacognition has led to poor retention of new information.
Basically, you need a level of self-awareness for what your needs are when learning new information and how you learn new information best. That way, things should start to make more sense.
So, those are my top tips on how to learn new information better. These tips are really effective but they don’t come overnight. What I suggest is that you give them all a try, see what ones, and what combination, works best for you and practice them a lot!
Al the best with learning all that new info brainiac!!!
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