By Jayde Austin
Each year, Valentine’s Day puts the emphasis on that ‘special someone’ in your life – and while we totally agree with spreading the love – we think that special someone receiving it, should actually be yourself!
There’s plenty of love and gratitude to go around, and so many ways to release self-neglect and put loving yourself into action. This Valentine’s Day, we’re encouraging you to practice self-love, self-acceptance and gratitude; after-all, loving and accepting yourself is a one-way ticket to improving your quality of life, and gaining a greater understanding of what you need to feel healthy and mentally well, closer with others, more fulfilment, and greater hope for what the future holds.
If you’re anything like us, taking time to practice self-love can be hard. Other things are more important than you; you have kids to look after, a partner you’re putting before yourself, work is more of a priority, or you’re simply lacking motivation – the list of excuses are endless. We call them excuses because the very first step to practicing self-love is shifting your self-perception. Feeling worthy of receiving love is the key to putting excuses aside, and acknowledging that gifting yourself with love and acceptance will greatly benefit everything else going on in your life – including those you were once putting before yourself.
Loving yourself isn’t a one day a year event, either. It’s an endless, ongoing endeavour, and one that we feel needs to be a priority. Not only so we feel enriched in our own lives, but also so we can show up in the world and give our full, amazing selves to others. Here are some ways you can try practicing self-love, and start cultivating this new lifestyle from this Valentine’s Day onward:
Try to overcome negative thoughts.
We all fall prey to negative thinking, which drains our energy and keeps us from being fully present. And while it’s so much easier said than done to overcome negative thoughts, we've put together some practical suggestions that might just help you shift your frame of mind, or attention, elsewhere.
First off, ask yourself this: what are the top 3 sources of negativity in my life? It could be social media, someone close to you at work, or even your diet having a negative response in your body. Take a piece of paper and write your three things down – then ask yourself, what can I do to spend less time with these 3 things this week? Be practical; if you’re not the type to deal well with cutting things out of your life, simply cut them down – limit yourself to 30minutes of leisurely time on social media instead of hours; make an effort not to take a break at the same time as the draining colleague at work; or take some steps to cut out foods you think are upsetting your body.
Another tip we have is to let your inner optimist out when you’re in negative situations. The best advice I’ve been given when I’m completely down and overwhelmed, is to ask yourself questions that will take you out of yourself for a moment, so you can see the bigger picture. Things like:
The final tip we have for shifting negative thoughts (although we could go on with this point for a while!), is to talk it out. Negative thinking is like a snowball – if you hold it in, your thoughts tend to get bigger, heavier and more dangerous as they continue rolling. Venting with someone you trust is a sure way of gaining a better perspective, and feeling a sense of relief and grounding within the situation. Personal therapy is also a fundamental way to analyse the root causes of negative thinking, and teaches us to shift the way we think. All of these things will contribute greatly to letting go of that nasty monster called negativity, and replacing it with light and kindness. We want you to show yourself more love and understanding, no matter what the situation.
Give yourself the gift of decluttering.
We’re not about to get all Marie Kondo on you, but we are going to enlighten you with some science behind decluttering attributing greatly to more happiness and less stress in your life. Living or working in chaos can deeply affect your mood and create a feeling of chaos within. It also diminishes a sense of peace or tranquillity when you move into a space, whether that’s work or home. An open, organised space can be freeing and uplifting. We’re not talking about being perfectly clean all the time, after-all, life is about living too! But taking a little time to tidy up, and create spaces you’re happy and proud of can make a big difference to your emotional state and inner peace.
Studies have proven a direct link between the stress hormone cortisol, and clutter. While a gender split did come into this study, (with women much more psychologically averse to clutter), the basic takeaway applies to everyone. Cortisol is not just linked to stress either; at heightened levels, it also causes depression – so living in an overly messy, cluttered or dirty home can give rise to other negative mental states. Keeping your space stress free can often be as easy as designating 15 minutes a day to tidying, rather than a full day every weekend. Even starting with 5 minutes a day to tidy that problem area could make a big difference.
Your living space reflects your inner self. I know for me, when I'm working in a tidier space, with my favourite scented candle lit, I feel clearer, calmer and more capable of whatever it is I’m trying to achieve. Prioritising yourself enough to cultivate spaces that you feel comfort and pride in is a great step to feeling better and enjoying life. You’re worthy of beautiful spaces, and peace when you come into them. Getting rid of that pile of clothes you've been meaning to donate, organising that cupboard you’re always avoiding because things fall out when it’s opened, or sorting through that stack of papers you've been staring at for months can be quite refreshing and give you a sense of accomplishment. Think of it as getting rid of the old to making room for the new! Treat yourself to a positive momentum to increase your sense of happiness and self-worth.
Treat yourself the way you hope your nearest and dearest are treating themselves.
We all have a complicated relationship between feelings and actions. If you were to reflect on your current state, would you say that your actions are generally reflective of a person who truly loves themselves? We’re generalising here, but for most people, they don’t get enough sleep or exercise, don’t feed themselves nourishing foods, don’t take care of their bodies and minds in the best way for them, and they avoid spending any real time in their own company. Treating yourself in the same way you would hope your loves ones are treating themselves is a great way to lead a healthy, fulfilling life. We all want our loves ones to nourish themselves, right? We want to see them quit smoking, and eat healthy so they can live long, prosperous lives. We want them to feel refreshed every day because they’ve had a great sleep. We want them to feel strong in their bodies from exercising, and we hope they see how incredible they are and have gratitude for all the amazing things in their lives. We want our loved ones to have fun and be silly – to enjoy the lighter side of life. And we hope they treat themselves by wearing their favourite top, or setting aside me time for things they enjoy, like art, or yoga, or walking along the beach.
If you act more like someone who loves you, you’ll feel more like someone who loves themselves. That’s the key takeaway here. Cultivating self-love, self-acceptance and feeling worthy of all of it will help you achieve a greater sense of well-being. Because you deserve love. You deserve time. You deserve focus.
Your ultimate work in self-love is this: step fully and boldly into life, and move through everything with self-awareness and compassion. When times are tough, be gentle on yourself. When times are good, relish in them. Create and maintain spaces you feel at peace in. And always give yourself the gifts you hope others are giving themselves. As you grow closer to yourself, you will feel a sense of self assurance and worthiness, then, your final task is simple: share your gift. Help others shine bright the way you’ve helped yourself. Only when you have learnt to love yourself fully, can you love others with the same capacity. Happy Valentine’s.
By Jayde Austin
Re-set, re-adjust, re-start, re-focus as many times as you need to.
With the new year, comes new resolutions. From quitting smoking, to being more physically active, or even eating to maximise your health/pleasure paradigm – whatever the focus we love hearing the goals people set – it shows that they want to continue enhancing their lives, and gives them something to focus on in the New Year.
In our experience, most goals we hear about will undoubtably have a positive impact on mental health, as people foresee themselves being in a happier space upon reaching their goals. It's quite surprising to know that a mere 20% of people actually accomplish what they set out to do… Not only do we hope this percentage increases; we also hope that you’re part of that group. We have written out some simple ways to help you continue moving forward to reach your set goals.
What goals did you set for 2019, and how are they going so far? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
By Anonymous Client
Well I guess it’s time for me to explain what It feels like being trapped in the head of an eating disorder. Personally, I think it’s funny when people say things like “she just wants to be skinny” or “she should just stop what she is doing… doesn’t she know what will power is? and surely eating disorders are a choice! There is plenty more but I’ll save that for a later date.
Here’s a little insight into how an eating disorder works.
I am going to give it a name.. Bully..so we can clearly identify it. So let’s learn a little bit about Bully... Here are some of it’s qualities!
Firstly, it is very nasty, opinionated, controlling and mean. It thrives off disappointment, self-doubt and uneasiness. It likes to never leave you alone, it always lets you know it’s there, sitting on your shoulder. There is always a comment it leaves with you at the start and end of each day. It never misses a beat, always aware of all the things you do wrong, and all the terrible outfits you put yourself in. It’s just like having your own personal bully who follows you everywhere. You never get a minute alone without it second-guessing your decision, your outfit, your meal or the lipstick colour you choose to wear. Yes, I know it sounds like your crazy right?
Well sometimes you do feel a little crazy and you believe and listen to the voice that makes all these final decisions for you. It feels like you have lost yourself and are on auto- pilot, just waiting for something big to happen to shock you back to reality.
I am going to explain a day in the life of an eating disorder so here goes!
You wake up, you’re tired and really feel like sleeping in, considering you have trained every morning for the last 5 days. Your body is sore, you feel weak and lethargic. It's 5 minutes past your alarm, 5 minutes turns to 10 minutes then all of a sudden….”Good Morning get your fat lazy arse out of bed… last night you ate chocolate and that is going to turn into extra stomach fat you don’t need… MOVE IT!”
Then you find yourself sprung out of bed in your gym gear walking out the door, with your eyes half closed. Your body feeling like it’s going to collapse on the floor, but you put one foot in front of the other and you do it. Then Bully goes silent whilst you push yourself, your legs feel like they are going to give out from underneath you and your completely out of breath on the verge of tears.
You get out of the shower you look into the mirror in disappointment; you look at the fat, the freckles and my white skin. You look at the acne that’s plastered all over your face as a result of purging and you fall to the floor in tears. This is when Bully gets a lot of enjoyment and starts throwing these comments at you “yeah you look disgusting, cover yourself, cover your face”. "You shouldn’t be allowed in public looking like that.”
It all eventually becomes a blur, you get up wipe the tears away and get on with it. You go to pick your outfit but Bully is back..”yuck, gross, don’t wear that it looks horrible…you look so fat!!”
Next you go to make breakfast, Bully says.. don’t eat that toast, don’t have butter, you can’t have milk. You have just trained your butt off but you’re only allowed a banana. Bully is happy with that decision, you get to work and bully starts again, are your sure that’s right?, double check that?, you probably stuffed it up.
You start to feel hungry, bully nope you can’t be hungry, you already had a banana. Just drink some water that will fill you up. So you drink litres of water and you find yourself starving, you’re lacking concentration and you can’t focus.
It gets to the end of the day, so you know how you have already trained at 5.30am this morning. “Yeah well you didn’t work hard enough. You need to do another session.” You race home, chuck you gear on and off you go.
It gets to dinner you are ravishing hungry, so you literally eat everything in your sight, which is a binge episode. You sneak food into your room to eat faster than the speed of light. You lay there feeling hot, uncomfortably full and of course Bully leads you to those colourful comments again. The next minute you find yourself making yourself sick. At this point you feel possessed, like a demon. Bully, who is fully in control of you and you are just completing its request at the sake of your health, teeth, mental and physical wellbeing.
The next morning you are back punishing yourself from your bad choices you made the night before. Bully loves that bit!!
That is just a small snippet into just 1 day of an eating disorder. Now take a moment and imagine working a full- time job and having that going on in your head everyday, yeah I bet your exhausted just reading it.
Now is it really a choice?
I am successfully in my 9th week of recovery from bulimia nervosa, I have relapsed but I don’t let that ruin all my hard work. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, every day I just want to throw in the towel and give up, but I don’t.
I just keep on keeping on otherwise I will never recover and I couldn’t imagine a life living with this for any longer. It is poisonous and deadly, you need to take the power back and keep soldiering on.
I believe I will eventually recover, it will take a long time but if I don’t start I will never make it.
I wanted to write this as I believe it is important to kill the stigma around eating disorders. It’s not a choice but instead it is a deadly illness that takes a hold of you and gets tighter and tighter to the point of suffocation.
I have been very fortunate to have been guided to a wonderful, passionate and strong therapist. She has not once judged me. She helps me see the positives even when I am blind sighted to it all. I think for me the most important thing about her is she understands and genuinely cares!!
I believe without her support, I don’t know If I would even be here writing this. I have been so desperate to have someone who listens to me, let’s me cry, doesn’t judge me and is always reminding me of all the positives things.
She will always help me laugh through the pain. I believe the most important part of recovery is finding someone you connect with and allowing them in, eating disorders try and shut you off to help.
I want to say try so damn hard to not let that happen. The first step to recovery is knowing recovery is possible and with the help and guidance your start to really feel it and believe It. At the end of the day it’s about putting one foot in front of another and repeat. You may fall, trip but you get up and continue or you will never make it to your destination.
Ps: the whole time I have been writing this I have been second guessing myself!!
But I want to share because it’s raw, real and honest.
By Urja Refalo
Psychotherapist / Counsellor
What is Gestalt?
Gestalt is a German word which when roughly translated means ‘whole’. Gestalt therapy has a broad, deep philosophical and theoretical foundation. What stands out for me having been a client for many years of Gestalt therapy is that I’ve felt respected, treated as an equal and empowered to be the expert of my own life by the various therapists I’ve worked with. I have felt well supported to explore the different aspects of my mind, body and spirit and at times this has created significant changes. The therapist has been solidly present and authentic, has given space for me to tell my story and supported my exploration. By engaging with the therapist in a way and style, that I had not known previously, I have experienced myself as fuller, more whole; have felt recognised, acknowledged and significant.
Gestalt therapy is deeply embedded in the present moment, in the here and now. By being in the past, or so far ahead in the future we can miss the present moment of contacting and connecting with others and our surroundings, leading to isolation and a myriad of difficult psychological experiences. Increasing awareness of how our past is impacting on our mind and body in the present moment supports our ability to live life in the here and now. What I know from my own journey and working with lots of people is that staying unaware of how we are living our lives can often make it difficult to see our potential and what possibilities lay ahead of us. What we do instead is hold onto an old version of ourselves, one that may not work for us anymore but we don’t know what to do with it.
When we become aware of our thoughts, what our body is saying, our behaviours, what we say to ourselves and our use of language and we have good support, change is inevitable. Awareness of where we are, what we do, and how we do it is what brings about change. By becoming more aware of how we do life and relationships, we can become mentally clear and free from negative habitual thinking. We open to experience reintegration, greater life force and an experience of being whole again, a sense of coming home to yourself.
Gestalt therapy offers a way of exploring the various parts of ourselves that we often keep hidden, either out of shame, fear or anxiety. By finding gentle and supported ways to express ourselves more fully, in all our shades, we can make a space for these parts of ourselves to exist more harmoniously. In Gestalt therapy, your mental, spiritual and physical experiences are given space and by experimenting together we gain more awareness of your patterns and new opportunities follow to live differently, with more choice, more in line with your authentic self.
In short, Gestalt Therapy is profound, authentic, powerful, supportive and perfect for all issues and experiences, ranging from relationship problems to stress management as well as all mental health issues inc. depression, PTSD, trauma; loss, grief and personal growth. I work with couples and individuals.
(I’d like to acknowledge Tracy Kavessy-Bell for her inspiring words www.thrivingsolo.com.au)