Counselling in Gwynedd, North Wales – An Introduction to Mindfulness

Mindfulness is an ancient eastern practice and is a way of being, where we pay careful attention to all of our experience. The teaching and practice of mindfulness is central to Buddhism.

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to our feelings, our thoughts and physical sensations like, smell, touch and sound in the present moment. Our lives tend to be very busy and we do not always notice these experiences and so miss them. We often undertake tasks like driving the car or walking on “autopilot”, often not being aware of what we are doing – maybe we are thinking about something we have to do later or remembering what someone said to us earlier.

This is sometimes refered to as not being “present” in the moment  – we maybe preoccupied by negative thoughts or feeling like we are miles away without us even realising it. This can be referred to as being on autopilot and when we are in this postition, stressful situations or events can impact on us, they may trigger unhelpful or negative thinking patterns with can sometimes lead to worry, anxiety or stress.

Mindfulness is about bringing all these thoughts, feelings and sensations in to our awareness and learning to control our focus of attention in a non judgemental way. When we do this, we become more grounded and more connected with our inner self and habits can become more apparant – this gives us the opportunity to change these habits or negative thoughts.

There are several ways to become more mindful, e.g mindful meditation, mindful breathing, mindful eating.

If you would like to know more about mindfulness as part of on-going therapy, please do not hesistate to contact me and we can discuss this at an initial assessment session.

Alternatively, if you would like to know more about mindfulness in general, there are numerous courses run and there are some very good websites, c.d’s and audiotapes available.

I hope you have found this introduction to mindfulness helpful.


Couples and Relationships

Being in a relationship can be exhilarating, exciting and fun. Spending time with another person that you share a special bond with can be very rewarding. However being in a relationship with another person takes effort and commitment from both sides.
Sometimes we can let other things in our lives take priority, for example work or family. This may result in you not talking to each other or working longer hours or even avoiding each other. Stress, depression and anxiety can all contribute to us feeling not good about ourselves and possibly not feeling we can talk to our partner.
When stressful life events occur or we notice that we are not having as much fun with our partners that we used to have, it may be time to think about what we want from our relationship or marriage.

Some ideas that may help?

Don’t blame me?
When things are not going right in a relationship, it can often be too easy to blame your partner and think you aren’t doing anything wrong. Using blame in a relationship or marriage is not always helpful; it may be more beneficial to acknowledge what is not right in your relationship or marriage and look at ways which may help or improve things.

We need to talk!
The most important part of any relationship or marriage is communication. When times are stressful or you are tired, it can be really easy to come in from work and either bicker or not talk. Most couples get out of the habit of talking with each other and this can be an important first step in getting your relationship back on track.
A good way of starting could be agreeing to spend 20 minutes talking with your partner. Take turns in talking to each other for 10 minutes. It is important that your partner does not interrupt, but listens carefully and attentively.

Let’s Listen to Each Other
This is another biggie and something that is really easy to fix. When we are tired or our relationship or marriage feels stale, we can often not listen or feel interested in our partner. Take extra time to really listen to what your partner is saying.
Empathy (really feeling what another person is going through) is a good way to show to your partner that you are listening to them and what they are saying is important.

Are We Leading Separate Lives?
Are you spending more and more time apart?
Think back to when you first met your partner and how you would spend your days or evenings. Sometimes rekindling old interests or doing activities or interests that you both share or enjoy can be a good way of spending time together again.
If you don’t have a shared interest, think of something you could both do together? Maybe dancing, walking or going to the cinema?
You may want to surprise your partner with a lovely meal at home – adapt it to your circumstances or what your partner likes.
Spending quality time together is important even if you are leading busy lives. The experience can be very special and something you can both look forward to.

Say or Do something nice?
If you have got out of the habit of complimenting your partner, try to say something nice to them each day or text them a message – we all like compliments or people saying positive and lovely things to us – it makes us feel good.
Or you could buy your partner a small gift, it does not have to be expensive, it could be a bar of chocolate or a cuddly toy, but it shows to your partner that you are thinking about them.

Talking to someone may help?
Many couples have counselling or therapy for a variety of reasons. It is not always when in a crisis. You may be spending more time apart; you could be feeling stressed and this could be impacting on your relationship. Alternatively, you may feel unhappy or that your relationship is stale or going nowhere.
Counselling can help and support you identify some of the difficulties. It allows for the couple to explore these difficulties and identify more helpful ways of communicating and being with each other. It will give you the opportunity to talk in a safe and secure environment.


What is self esteem?

There are several terms that can be used when describing self-esteem, for example, self- worth, self-image and self-respect. These are ways to describe our views and opinions about ourselves and how we see ourselves. They can reflect an overall belief or judgement we may have about ourselves, for example, “I feel good about myself” or “I’m useless”.

High self-esteem can be described where a person generally has a positive view of themselves.

Low self-esteem can be described where a person has negative thoughts or feelings about themselves. A person may judge themselves in an unfavourable way and have a negative opinion of themselves and a sense of low self worth.

Low self-esteem can have an effect on a person’s mental health. Life events such as a marriage break-up, redundancy, illness or feeling unsatisfied with life can have an impact on a person’s self-esteem. It can contribute to a person feeling a lack of confidence. Depression, anxiety and panic attacks can all impact significantly on how a person sees or values themselves.

The views we have about ourselves develop through our experiences in life. The significant aspect of low self esteem lay in negative thoughts about the self. These can be value judgements or beliefs we have about ourselves. However, they are usually opinions and they can often be mistaken. The good thing about opinions is that they can be changed.


Ways To Improve Your Self-Esteem

1. Challenge negative thinking. It is important to challenge the negative core beliefs you may have about yourself and identify where they may originate from. This is not easy, but being aware that you are in a cycle of negative thinking is the starting point. Some people find it helpful to write down their thoughts and feelings as this can help identify any particular patterns or situations when the negative thinking occurs.

2. Learn to like yourself. Think of all the things you like about yourself and focus on these things. It is easy to discount or disregard ourselves when we are in a cycle of thinking negative things about ourselves.Be kind to yourself. Self nurturing is very important and has many positive benefits. Some people find it difficult to take time out for themselves or they may think they do not deserve to do something nice. We all deserve this and taking time out for ourselves can improve our emotional and mental wellbeing. For example, going for a nice swim, followed by a sauna is a good way of self nurturing. Equally, treating yourself to something, e.g. buying a book or a nice meal can have similar benefits. It is important to think about you and what would make you feel good.

3. Set yourself a goal or aim for the day. This will help you focus on something particular  and help you avoid spending spare time ruminating or thinking about negative things. If you succeed in your goal this will begin to help you feel good about yourself.Avoid comparing yourself to others. You are unique and that is what makes you special, we all have our own individual traits, views and opinions. If we can value and respect ourselves this will help promote our self-esteem and self worth.

4. Create an environment that is uplifting. For example, brighten up a room with a colourful throw or any ornament or fabric that is vibrant. Listen to music  that is inspiring and wear clothes that are bright – this can enhance your mood and I’m sure you will get lots of comments and compliments,

5. Smile. Human beings like social contact – smiling and greeting people is a good way to get positive responses from other people, this then makes us feel good. Try it and see if it works for you.

6. Take up some exercise. Whether it’s walking, running, going to the gym or a dance class as exercise releases endorphins, which makes us feel good. The more you do the easier it usually gets, and this will increase your confidence and how you generally feel about yourself. It is never too late to start and the benefits to our physical and mental wellbeing are enormous.


If you would like to read further on low self-esteem, there is a really good book called:

Overcoming Low Self-Esteem.  A self help guide using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques and is by Melanie Fennell.