Archive | July, 2012

Music Lifts our spirits

31 Jul

Bombay bicycle club- Shuffle

It’s raining again. The weather really has not been up to much this summer. We live in a wet, green, rocky outcrop on the western seaboard of Europe. People are being affected by the unpredictable weather this summer has brought. I was asked to talk on WLR radio last Thursday on what we can do to lift our moods during the rain soaked summer days. More about that on another day. We know that music has the power to lift our spirits on those dark days. For now even as I look out of my rain battered office window I can only feel a lift in my spirits when I listen to this song. Enjoy


24 Jul

ImageI came across Jane McGonigal yesterday. Jane is a world renowned designer of alternate reality games. Which are games designed to improve our lives and solve problems. Jane suffered a head injury that spiralled her into depression and ultimately suicidal ideation. During this period she started to design a game that would help her to recover and fight back against the depression she had been experiencing. You can see her talk here at TED Edinburgh.

Jane has created that game also created a website SuperBetter that is designed to help us achieve goals and build resilience.

This is what SuperBetter provides you with

* A way to build up your core strengths — physical, mental, emotional and social
* Totally customizable — figure out what matters most to you, and how to get more of it
* Designed to help you through a tough time, or with a difficult change
* About claiming your power — the power you have to impact how you feel everyday, and to decide for yourself how your life will unfold
* Backed by science — neuroscience, positive psychology, and medicine. You’ll learn the science as you play.
* Social — SuperBetter can give your friends and family an “aha moment” about what you’re tackling, and help them find ways to really support you.
* A collective investigation. Everyone who is playing is helping to figure out new ways to get SuperBetter — for themselves, and for the entire community.
* A powerful boost when you need it most. You don’t have to play SuperBetter forever. You play when you need it.

It outlines a lot of tips that I use on my course in a fun and engaging manner. If you need a little boost and build your resilience at any time in your life then we really recommend SuperBetter.

Be yourself, everyone else is taken

23 Jul

I saw this on Sonia Lakshman’s Blog and had to share it. Image

What connects us to others

17 Jul

Paul Zac has spent some time researching the effects of Oxytocin on our relationships with our fellow man. Paul is one of the leading pioneers in the field of Neuroeconomics.

Oxytocin to those that are not familiar with it, is sometimes called the “Love hormone”. It is present in Mothers breast milk and helps to create a bond between mother and child. It is also produced during sex between two people leaving the afterglow that is felt after sexual activity between two people who know each other that can last for hours. In short oxytocin connects people with others.

Paul Zak ran experiments were oxytocin levels were tested before and after individuals watched a video of a father and his four year old son who had terminal brain cancer. Oxytocin levels spiked in participants after watching the video. The change in oxytocin predicted their feelings of empathy. It is empathy that makes us connect with other people. It’s empathy that makes us want to help other people.

Oxytocin is also produced in situations where trust is garnered. The Trust game is a good example of this. Pairs of participants communicate together via computer terminals. They have never met before and are not aware of who the other person is. Both person A and person B are aware of the rules of the game. Person A is provided with £10 and is asked to send some of it electronically to person B. The motivation for person A as the rules stipulate is the knowledge that any money sent to person B will triple in value. Whereupon person B will have the option of sending some of it back as a thankyou.  You would think that according to rational behaviour Person B acting selfishly has no reason to give any money back and if person A knows this he would be wise not to send any over in the first place.

Yet in trials 90% of A people send the money over and get this …95% of people send the money back. Analysis of Oxytocin levels in the bloodstream reveals that by sending money to Person B, person A is giving a sign of trust and being on the receiving end of a sign of trust causes our oxytocin levels to increase motivating more generous behaviour in return.

So we know that higher levels of oxytocin in our system create a greater level of trust. We are more likely to open up our wallets and give to others once we feel trusted and our oxytocin levels have risen. We also see it in commercials for products we buy or from companies we buy from. Have you ever wondered why large corporations like Coca Cola, McDonald’s and Tesco’s have happy rinky dink tunes associated with their adverts alongside cute little worlds and animations that they have created. It is all designed to increase your oxytocin levels and build a level of trust between you and their brand.

Oxytocin has other benefits rather than just making the world a more pleasant place by rewarding you if you trust me but also by reducing blood pressure, helping us to relax and also reducing those dangerous cortisol levels we build up once we are stressed. It also promotes growth and healing and has anti anxiety effects. Unfortunately it is corrupted by high levels of testosterone which might equate for the lack of empathy and unselfish love and generosity that is experienced on the stock market floors around the world.

How do we naturally release oxytocin into our system? We know we can nasally inhale oxytocin into our systems  through inhalers which produces feelings of trust, connectedness and love. But what works naturally? Massage, dancing and even praying are all contributors to raised levels of oxytocin all activities that are enjoyable and easy to partake in. My favourite is simply through…… hugging. Yep apparently up to 8 hugs a day is a great contributor to raising feelings of connectedness, empathy, love and generosity all the values that would make this world a more wonderful home.

Who matters most

12 Jul

People matter.

The past few years have been hard.Hard on everyone.Not just financially but also physically and mentally. We all know why financially, but we have also sacrificed our health by not eating the right foods because the fat and sugar filled foods are always cheaper or on special offer and on display the minute we enter a supermarket. Healthy organic food is not always an option due to families financial restrictions.Healthy food makes more sense not only to the people ingesting it but also to the Government health boards fighting health related illness and obesity
We spend more money on car and road safety then we do on mental health. Yet in countries like Ireland the rate of road deaths are half the numbers that die by suicide each year.

We have pitted Private sector workers against Public sector workers. Public sector workers are branded lazy while only 7 years ago public workers complained about the opportunities and bonuses that private sector workers enjoyed while public sector were seen as having sacrificed aspiration and a ride on the gravy train for a commitment to their jobs as Teachers, civil servants and Nurses.
The people of Greece are portrayed as lazy. People who spent a two-week holiday on any of their islands can testify to witnessing an almost laid back enjoyment of life (how dare they)and a healthy life expectancy.
The Irish drank, laughed and spent their way to oblivion. The Spanish and Portuguese spent half the afternoon in bed and the Italians are so corrupt it was bound to happen. All stereotypes that we have half the world conveniently thinking is true. All stereotypes that conveniently tell the rest of the world why working harder and more austerity are the answers.

These are not the answers. Richard Layards Manifesto for Economic sense lays testament to this.
Austerity does not encourage people to spend and contribute to society. Shops and business’s on our high streets have not all closed because they had poor business plans it is because the important cog in their financial wheel the customer is no longer in the wheel. Simple. No one is spending. Austerity also discourages companies to invest in economies because companies only invest in markets they can foresee customers with enough income to spend.
Cuts in our public sector will do nothing to improve our economies. We only cut what seems unnecessary but is ultimately the most valuable.
Imagine cutting 20% off every mortgage in the country. What would that do for a stagnant economy. People are scared to spend or simply can’t participate in everyday activities that they did before because the finances don’t allow. Austerity is a noose around all of our necks.
Today I was presenting to a group of Mental health patients that have had their services cut. One member I will call Jeff came to me before my presentation and spoke of his mental health issues. Something hugely traumatic happened to him at a particular time in his life. Since that moment he has had panic attacks when he enters that reminds him of the trauma he experienced. I asked was he receiving any help for this to help erase the panic attacks. He said that he had received some Cognitive behavioural therapy but this had been stopped due to a cut in resources. He came to me because he had started to self medicate to numb the pain because he didn’t know where else to turn.
Where are we as human beings if we feel that caring for our fellow brothers and sisters is no longer a priority and even though suicide rates in Ireland and particularly Greece have increased over the past 3 years we have more important matters to focus on like stabilizing markets, currencies and propping up financial institutions.

Once again if we all asked ourselves when we walked out our front doors each day “What can I do today to make other people’s lives better”. This question should come from everyone, Government officials, Bankers, Fuel company Ceo’s, right through to the customer service representative that is there to help you get a better result from the service they provide.

Until then…we are asking the wrong questions and ultimately forsaking what really matters…our people.


9 Jul

I always start my programmes with the simple statement “What you focus on you get more of“. I apply it to everything. Why have some people a sunnier disposition to others? Just ask them where there thinking is focused on most of the time. Do they feel sad? I bet they do. Does life throw up some difficult moments for them? I am sure it does. Do they encounter the same setbacks we all experience? Yep! We all do, it’s part of life. But where is their focus on most of the time?

Spend some time around positive, happy, optimists and you will find that their thinking is focused on all the wonders that they are blessed with in their lives. The beauty of being alive, the gratitude for the life and friends they have been given and the limitless possibilities of life ahead.

We are not happy by chance. Studies show that 50% of our happiness levels are from a genetic disposition. 10% is down to environmental factors, home life, job, income, address etc. (Beverly hills is not the happiest place in the world funnily enough). 40% is down to the work we have done to increase our happiness levels.

40% is a big number. Imagine the changes we can make to our lives if we start to redirect our focus.

We live in amazing times. Technology is  amazing. I send a text and in seconds it is being read on the other side of the world. We can watch films and images on mobile devices as we travel the earth on planes that keep us in the air by means I am not sure of.

We flick switches and lights come on where we live ( I don’t even know how electricity works). The sun comes up each morning and the moon arrives each night it’s all amazing. The world spins at just the right speed and gravity keeps us on solid ground. Each one of these things is amazing. When was the last time we focused on the wonders of our lives and the blessings we have.

I spent a few days in April with Ciara Spellman and her students in CBS Wexford teaching just that. What is amazing about us and this world and most importantly “What we focus on we get more of”

Beautiful sunrise

We had two wonderful days and the testimonials from the students proved it

What you focus on you get more of – Love it”.

“I learned that I should try things that I have a fear of because it is better to conquer them”.

“It made me realise that life is what you make it.”


Now all you have to think is what are you giving most of your focus to!

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