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.
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.
Positive thinking has been in mainstream headlines and psychology headlines for a number of years now.
It’s something you are probably well familiar with, but what exactly does it mean and what are the true psychological and well-being ramifications of positive thinking?
So, before we start, what exactly is positive thinking?
One of the first issues here is that you might be tempted to think that positive thinking is looking at the world without any negativity, like looking through rose glasses.
It means having a positive outlook in spite of everyday challenges and barriers we all face.
The psychologist Martin Seligman gives an explanatory understanding in illustrating what positive thinking is.
He states that positive thinkers are able to absorb the good things that happen and can see negative outcomes as external to them and as temporary and fixable.
On the other hand, negative out lookers blame themselves for circumstances they can’t control.
They fail to give themselves credit.
They view negative events as lasting and expected, and they view challenges as insurmountable.
So, now we know what positive thinking is and isn’t. What then can we do to adopt more positive thinking and what could this do for our well-being?
In recent years, pop psychology books have made positive thinking popular.
However, positive thinking has real empirical research that shows massive health and well-being benefits.
Benefits such as:
Longer life span
Increase resistance to infection
Lower depression rates
So why are there all these benefits from positive thinking?
Well, first of all, its clear that positive thinking is linked to other things that improve our health and well-being.
By thinking more positively, we adopt a tougher protection to things like stress and anxiety, we also tend to live healthier lives in general.
All of this positive thinking stuff sounds great then, but how can YOU develop a life with more positive thinking and gain all these incredible benefits?
Well, the first thing you can do is to be aware of your inner monologue. What is your inner monologue saying to you? Is it positive or negative?
By doing this, we can start to understand the source of our positive and negative thinking patterns.
Dependent on the situation and context, your inner monologue might tell you something really detrimental and negative. Knowing what situation this happens in is the first step to developing a more positive outlook.
Understand and evaluate how you think in difficult situations.
For example, for me when things go wrong, I am quick to think that my situation is unfixable and that the situation is inevitably going to get worse.
What is best for me here is to focus on my successes so far, understand that difficulty is part of what I am doing and that I have made it through similar circumstances before.
By being realistic about my circumstances and the situation I face and knowing that I have faced similar situations before, I develop my positive outlook and my positive thinking patterns.
Understand your own blame game
One of the defining features of negative thinkers is that they are quick to blame themselves, regardless of the circumstance.
This doesn’t mean as a positive thinker you need to blame others.
It means that as a positive thinker you need to be realistic with the blame you dish out.
Understanding what you are capable of improving and working on rather than fixating on what you cant control goes a long way to improving your positive thinking capabilities.
Studies have shown that people who try to cultivate new habits and try to change big aspects of their lives all at once, fail more often than not.
Focusing on small steps tend to stick better over time.
So how can you utilise this when trying to think more positively?
Well, perhaps you could try some daily reflections on your negative self-talk.
Or you could find one situation a day that you normally would feel negative about and try and have a more positive outlook on.
Fundamentally, positive thinking can have an incredibly profound and positive impact on your daily lives.
There is no doubt that it is difficult, it can be hard to suddenly change from focussing on negativity to thinking more positively.
However, by adopting these top tips and understanding a little more about positive thinking, you will be well on your way to making that change.
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