PERMA: An Introduction

Dearest lovely readers,

How are we all faring?

When I started this blog, I thought I’d fill it out with post after post about well-being and psychology. Of course, it’s taken a different turn and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, I realised I’ve done very little in the way of what I love most in modern theory, positive psychology.

Now that I am back into the swing of things, I want to dedicate the next few weeks on some essential theory of positive psychology and how we can bring it into our lives and fill us up. Each post will have a similar formula, a small background on one of the elements of the PERMA model, how I’ve translated into my life and well-being and maybe some tips of how you could do the same if you’re interested.

Onto the introduction.

Positive psychology has been around for a few decades but was focused and arguably pioneered by Martin Seligman in 1998. He wanted people to be able to improve their quality of life. It focuses upon eudaimonia (“the good life”). It focuses upon improving what we need to live a fulfilling life.

The initial theory and base model by Seligman was created in 2002 known as the Authentic Happiness theory and detailed 3 elements on how to live a pleasant, good and meaningful life. Some elements included flow, belonging, meaning and savouring.

The PERMA model was formed in 2011 following numerous studies. Seligman called it “the other side of the coin” to clinical psychology. PERMA stands for Positive Emotions, Engagement, Positive Relationships, Meaning and Achievement. Altogether they can help make up positive well-being for the individual. These are the elements we will be exploring over the next few weeks and in greater detail, as well as some tips to help you on your well-being journey.

Positive psychology is a promising field, whilst there are no “gold standards” for research, there are countless studies proving the effectiveness of positive psychology. I hope that this series can highlight how wonderful finding positive well-being can be.

Much love,

L x

Self-love and body positivity

*CW: Mentions of body issues, food intake*

Dearest lovely readers,

Isn’t the weather getting lovely? I’m seeing more sunshine. I was actually able to go for a couple of walks after months of not being able to. It was wonderful! Hoping to get out again soon. Spring is coming. Now onto today’s topic…

The concept of self-love and body positivity are very important topics. Currently in the UK we are seeing a rise in eating disorders and body image issues, something I’ve always struggled with. Self-love is also at a low. Self-love comes many forms. According to the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation, they define self-love as a state of appreciation of oneself. It grows from how we treat ourselves and the actions that sustain us physically, psychologically and emotionally. It is about putting yourself first and not setting yourself on fire to keep others warm. Self-love is finding ways of keeping your well-being at the highest quality and priority. Self-love can mean different things for different people. It can take presence by caring for yourself and dealing with yourself compassionately. It takes root by truly loving every part of yourself physically and mentally.

For me self-love is shown in many, many forms. Ultimately, I tie myself to love through body positivity. I have some days where I can’t love my body, other days I caress it gently and see nothing but positives. I used to hate who I was as a person, but I’ve grown and now see the wider context. I never loved myself, and felt worthy of nothing. Now, I know I deserve better. I make time and space for my feelings, for my well-being, for me. Self-love starts by you accepting who you are, a declaration to yourself saying you will do better by yourself. It is about reacting appropriately to you and your body’s needs. Self-love is a radical act to see yourself holistically.

This is the thing.

Self-love is radical. In a world filled with media of people hating others, media and beauty industries telling you how to better yourself, it is radical to step out of that and see what it is you truly want and need. Self-love in a world of berating is a beautiful thing. It shows that there is more to be positive about, that propaganda and narrow minded views aren’t reality and that we are capable of more. That our unique selves are worth more than we are told.

Body positivity is thrown around a lot. I have brought it in with self-love because a lot of people equate self-love to our bodies, and yes there is more to self love but body positivity is important. Body positivity isn’t about shaming others, it’s about celebrating all bodies no matter the size or ability. Because no one should be concerned with what another looks like. We are all unique and divine regardless. Being body positive reduces shame as sizes and abilities become more accepted in the norm. And this is the right thing to do. It astounds me how so many people are okay mocking others for what their body may look like, I say to them:

Why are you so concerned? It’s not your body and it’s not your life.

Leave people be.

My personal story

My history is complicated. Following panic attacks occurring regularly at 10 I started restricting my food intake to cope, it lasted a few years. I ended up being so concerned over the space I took and developed unhealthy body image. I then started binge eating from 15 following my first breakdown as a teenager. My body shape has changed drastically over the years. And I had a preoccupation with it. People take it upon themselves to hate on me for my shape, assume I’m lazy and it’s my own fault. I have tried changing but will power limits itself eventually as it does for many. I didn’t care for my body a lot of the time, I didn’t love myself enough to care for it. I tried exercise but end up in pain. Then I read Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon and it opened my mind to the truth. I won’t lie, it was a healing read. Over the years, more from around 2019 I started to take better care of myself and find ways to heal years of damage. I am now of a higher weight due to medications but I have a lot of positive health habits. I am slowly healing. As I have tried to take care of my body and my mental health in more productive ways, I have learned to love myself. I see myself as a person worthy of love, respect and care. Some days are harder yes, there are days I don’t really want to look in the mirror. But that is just a part of it. Compared to 2018… I am in a far better position.

This is a call to love yourself, love your mind, love your emotions, love your body. You deserve it.

L x

P.S. The next few weeks will be focusing on a series of positive psychology posts 🙂

It’s been a while..

Dearest lovely readers,

It really has been a while hasn’t it? I can only apologise.

Have you ever felt so lost it’s like you’re on a rocky path that seemingly leads to nowhere in the dark? That is what it seems to have been for me during my period of silence. Everything running out of my control and in ways I couldn’t imagine. If you have ever felt like this, then you’re not alone, I am in solidarity with you.

My health has drastically changed over the last few months and it’s taken some getting used to. I figured, whilst I was in a good place, I’d update you.

Well, I came out with a First Class degree in case you were wondering. Top of the top, my work will also be used as a good example for future students to learn from. So that saw a period of celebration. We also celebrated my partner’s 30th, it was low key but relaxing and an overall good day! My partner has been coming up to see me and will do so again this coming Tuesday since I am struggling so much. It always feels wonderful to be around him.

Mental health wise I have been up and down. I’m currently coming off a medication slowly as it didn’t seem to be as effective anymore. I was happy to do this and honestly? I do feel a bit better for it, I’m certainly not as foggy (though fibromyalgia doesn’t help). I feel a little more free when I am well. The down periods do certainly have an impact lately, I have been easily triggered and ideation is happening more than I’d like. But with the help of my mam, family and partner I’m coping.

Physically I have been rendered mostly bedbound again. The fatigue has been so real, and nigh on constant, as has the ‘fibro-fog’. Which I am sure many understand. The flares have been getting worse I assume due to my mental health worsening.

What makes this harder is the delays in treatment. I have been waiting for two months for a rheumatologist letter to get to my GP for a referral to a management clinic. My therapy for what I’m going through is now paused indefinitely. There is certainly no change coming from services soon.

So what do I do?

The disappointment with therapy being cancelled overwhelmed me. But I had a choice. Let it consume me for weeks or fight to find a way out of this darkness.

So.

I have bought some informative books from very trusted sources and am essentially going to study myself better. Making changes in my life where I can and prepare for my next meetings/appointments so I can question possible things that may help.

I am not giving up. I can’t. What good would that do?

I do firmly believe in things like correct psycho-education and self-help from the right sources, I think a lot of good can be done from that. So I’m off to study.

How are you doing, dearest? I am here.

Much love,

L x

A celebration in London

Dearest lovely readers,

It has been a while hasn’t it?

Well, I am here to talk today about little breaks away.

Following finishing university and passing my training to be a crisis volunteer I went to London to meet my partner. We spent 5 wonderful days away in London.

I have been struggling with my mental health problems quite a bit lately, so much so, it looks like a new diagnosis may be on the horizon (I will leave that to the professionals though). Even they took a break for me.

London has always been a special place for my partner and I, it’s where we first met and it’s the “middle” of where we can meet given we still live on the opposite sides of the country!

It was so relaxing, doing a spot of shopping, treating each other, visiting the aquarium. We even went for a meal out! It was so lovely to just relax and spend time one another. We enjoy London every time we go (the tube not so much I will admit).

I always say that self-care should be the basics and most simple things, but sometimes even a short break away can make all the difference. Getting to put a pause on life, even for an overnight stay can leave people feeling refreshed and rested. I think it’s an important thing to remember that we all need a break sometimes, and it’s completely okay to do so. It doesn’t have to be an expensive affair. But getting away can make all the difference to your mental health.

I feel refreshed and ready to tackle life once again, maybe it was seeing my partner but I felt safe and loved and came back home to get things on the right track again.

Have you got any little breaks away planned?

Much love,

L x

Considering alcohol

Dearest lovely readers,

As mentioned in my previous post I would write a word on alcohol in our society. Now, I would like to note this is not representative of everyone’s view on alcohol. These are just some things I have noticed and felt that alcohol can be an impactful factor on well-being.

There is something important I have learned on my journey through sobriety, and that is the varying forms alcoholism. Being an “alcoholic” or someone who misuses alcohol is definitely not always what we see on TV.

We use alcohol not only to socialise, but for special occasions, celebrations, we give it as gifts, meals, to relax, to taste, to binge on, to let off steam, it’s on banners and cards to give others. You can go into stores and there is always a selection of wines, ciders, ales, beers, spirits, then mixers and alcopops. The SGS Handbook makes a poignant question: if all alcohol was packaged as cigarettes currently are, all the same and bland, would it be as popular?

We so often forget that alcohol is a drug, a depressant which can slow down brain functions whilst also inducing lesser inhibition (1).

Alcohol can easily and quickly become addictive, or used as a crutch regularly. The reduction on inhibition can lead to impulsive and dangerous situations much like other substances. I myself have ended up in unsavoury situations and positions. Often having episodes of anything bad happened. Alcohol can also leave you feeling low for days on end as a come down because of its depressant activity.

Alcoholism is related to 5% of worldwide deaths and is the fourth most preventable disease in the world (2). The result of alcoholism is a weakened immune system, poor health (both mental and physical), poorer relationships. Alcohol works as stereotypical illegal drugs in gaining tolerance and having to drink more and more to get the same feeling, and it can start from the first drink for people.

The NHS details many more risks and long term complications around alcohol use and helps to give help if needed (3).

Can alcohol be enjoyable? Absolutely. But should it be as celebrated as it is? To me, knowing what I know now, not really.

I am proud of being sober, and as someone who was told by a GP on their 21st birthday that they’d die if they kept up the drinking of alcohol, I wish I had learned sobriety long ago.

Much love,

L x

(1) https://www.addictioncenter.com/community/is-alcohol-a-drug/

(2) https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/alcohol-abuse/

(3) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alcohol-misuse/

Celebrating sobriety

Dearest lovely readers,

I DID IT.

One year sober today.

It’s been strange, I feel strange about it, almost like it hasn’t been so long. I know that many others are years and years ahead, but we all must start somewhere.

It’s been a difficult journey. After my final, negative experience I knew it was best to turn my head and walk away from something that has caused me so much trouble. Psychotic episodes, behaviours I no longer wanted. It took an awful lot for me to finally realise I needed to stop drinking.

At first, it was quite easy, alcohol immediately smelled horrible and appeared as unappealing. So the first few weeks were easier. But as I got unwell, it became harder, I would crave. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I wanted a drink when I was low, or desperate for an out of what I was feeling.

I used to love the partying lifestyle, never mind the drama it would bring. I used to think I’d never give it up.

But it brought damaging situations, I’d often be suicidal after drinking, I dread thinking of all the episodes I had that my mother had to deal with.

I’m baring all as an honest account that drinking has a dark side. During my journey on this path, I read a lot about alcohol, read a bit of quit lit (Sober Girl Society is great!) and it’s been eye opening just how ingrained alcohol is in our society. But that’s a discussion for another day.

I am proud of how far I’ve come, alcohol was ingrained in my life. Whilst some nights out brought great memories, there were just too many bad risks associated in my life. I saw myself ending up broken if I kept up drinking. So I made the choice to stop. To end a cycle.

There wasn’t anything magical for me when I stopped must admit.

But given the statistics of addiction and borderline personality disorder, I knew the risk. So I made the decision to make sure I did not end up as another statistic.

So today I’m celebrating how far I’ve come, and I’m looking forward to more years of sobriety. It was a great decision for my physical AND mental health.

Over the next couple of weeks, I shall bring some reviews on quit lit and a little bit of information on alcohol.

Sobriety is a difficult decision, and a difficult journey, but relying on things as vices is never healthy. I sometimes feel great about my choice, other times not so much, but it’s all about one day at a time.

Much, much love,

L x

The joy of reading

Dearest lovely readers,

How are we all faring on this windy day?

I have just been for my third walk of the week which is the first time since last summer, this is a huge win for me. I feel, strangely enough, more alive I will be writing in future on simple activities that can bring joy for people. For today, I thought I would write about the joy of reading.

It is an activity that has gone on for ages with fantastic fantasy to imaginative, sci-fi to thrillers and endless topics of non-fiction. There is something for everyone. It seems that in these times less people have been picking up books, at least until last year. I think people are rediscovering the wonder of books. It can come in many forms from hidden meanings and messages within books to social commentary on things we face as humans today and it’s impactful.

I used to love reading as a child my level was “advanced”. I devoured every book that I could get my hands on, the books were a bit simpler but I still enjoyed being able to challenge myself.

One of the main reasons why there is so much joy in reading is because of the versatility, I feel. You can get books from chain retailers, independent bookshops, the libraries, as ebooks or hard copies, there’s always something out there. Then you have the endless choice of genre from horror to thriller to crime and drama, romance, and that’s just fiction. In non-fiction you have environment, science, well-being, culture, sexuality, gender, socio-political issues, written by experts, or people with experience. Voices of people who are less heard are being plastered as best sellers. It’s excellent and fascinating.

Reading is accessible as well. You have “normal” books, you even have graphic novels and manga. You can get it in large print, in braille, as audiobooks. So no one is denied the right to enjoy a world within some pages.

By having a joy of reading you reap the benefits of better well-being. It is found in countless studies that reading reduces levels of stress and depression. It can increase feelings of relaxation, book clubs can reduce loneliness, having books to be read as a family can increase connectedness and canincrease the awareness of oneself. People can explore their own identities and other people’s identities by having more voices heard in fiction and non-fiction alike (Reading Agency). I can only speak from experience in saying that this is accurate for myself and others around me. I find my well-being does benefit when reading at the moment. I am enjoying non-fiction and I’m currently reading The Gene by Siddartha Mukherjee. Next I’m going to read Pride and Prejudice.

This just shows the flexibility of reading and how simple it can be to find something you connect with and I think that’s the important thing: the connection. Throughout the day we are so busy going from one job to the next with a multitude of commitments but reading gives us that chance to find a connection with something that isn’t involving technology or humans. Because that can wear us out. It’s about being present in the moment focusing on something miraculous really.

if you want to get into reading,look at the Reading Agency, they have many programmes, hit libraries when they open. Make it a personal affair, a family affair, make it a friend affair, make it a community affair.

Much love, as always

L x

My social media story

*CW: mention self-harm/suicide*

Dearest lovely readers,

We have, over the years, been inundated about the dangers of social media, others arguing “it’s not so bad”. We have seen the arguments rage on since it’s invention. Let me tell you, a bit of my story – this is not the whole story as one part from my young, naĂŻve is difficult to share.

Like most my age, I started on social media very young, maybe around 11 years old. It was fun. I became bewildered at how easily I could make my own website, how easily I could change things and it started an obsession. As I grew older I was able to talk to my friends any time I wanted, I could share ‘fun things’, I followed “deep” pages sharing in my teenaged angst. I felt understood. I was obsessed with a game call YoVille on Facebook when I was around 13 years old. That game caused some real danger and I learned of the dark side very young, but without the true understanding of how the world works.

Around 15 I was on another site, WeHeartIt, which I liked because no one else I knew was on it, I could find pictures I loved. Unfortunately, safe guards around self-harm and suicide weren’t there and I saw many pictures which affected me.

I grew an affinity to ‘liking’ people’s things as a way of showing affection, or telling people, “yes, this is good content” and I didn’t really even realise it. But by the time I was 18, I started lessening what I reacted to, putting up less and less statuses. But yet, I would endlessly scroll, and scroll, and scroll. This was my life until a few years ago, I learned that I was part of (one of) the big Facebook scandal in which millions of people’s data had been took for the 2016 election. That was when I did my research. Whilst I still kept on scrolling, I started to see through the façade, I started to see more content that was harming my mental health.

I became one of those who would compare themselves, and felt inferior. I then started seeing a lot of media content that would enrage me but had no choice in whether I could see it or not. And so I quit Facebook. But then I still had Instagram. The exact same cycle happened.

I became addicted to seeing these that would embroil me in emotions and I just couldn’t stop.

Overall, yes I enjoyed posting things and connecting with friends to see what they were up to and yes, even getting the few likes I got. But yes, I also felt disheartened when I didn’t get many likes, I felt anger at seeing people’s views that didn’t match my own, I also felt pity for myself seeing how “far ahead” others got in life. Social media made me critical of myself and others. And that just does not par up to who I am. So I quit.

And I feel free, I relinquished those chains.

Ultimately, it is how we use social media that matters and when it starts to feel awful, that is the time to quit.

Much love,

L x

An little open letter to 16 year old me

Dearest Me,

You are now freshly turned sixteen years-old and right now, you are exhausted. You are overwhelmed. You are frightened. And looking back it is so easy and visible to understand why.

Sleep is a rarity, food has become the one thing you can control again, you would much rather just leave this plane of existence, you are overwhelmed and lost in emotions, chronic emptiness and baffled by what you experience inside your head. You don’t know why this is happening.

You now spend your lunch in the library alone working on preparing for your exams. You think life just cannot get much worse.

As you grow, life is going to get messier, more complicated, more nuanced. You will struggle, there will be times when it feels as if it could not get any worse, then it does. I will not lie.

You will make questionable choices when it comes to love, you experience the thrills of a partying lifestyle, your social circle grows then shrinks to those who matter most to you, who truly lift you up out of your bad times. You gain your family’s wholehearted support.

As you grow, life is going to become a bit easier though. You get therapy, and meet some wonderful workers who give you hope about the system.

Where am I right now nine years later?

You have found the man you want to spend the rest of your life with, one whom respects you and sets your world on fire, who gives you the healthy relationship you deserve, and understands better than anyone what you go through. You are about to graduate university, which may be a shock given you thought you’d never get there. You have made some wonderful friends too. Your immediate circle is filled with true friendship. You find your faith system.

More importantly, you become happy and satisfied with life, you’ve learned how your illnesses work and what to do in order to quell their flames. We struggle, but we do not struggle alone. That is what matters.

My advice to you: live life, explore what needs exploring, we don’t know what the future holds, we will get to where we need to be when the time comes.

Hold on, dear one, because life is just beginning, and it’s wondrous.

All my love,

L x

The importance of a support network

Hello all. I am wishing you joy, contentment and good health right now.

First off, we recently have had an influx of new lovelies joining us and I wish to say welcome to an accepting place where I am honest about my experiences but also try to bring hope and positivity into the discussion. Please do join in, and I hope you settle in well.

For those who may not know, a support network is is a group of people that you are connected to, who help to support you through life. It could be family members, friends, support workers, people you can go to when you need them. For myself, my support network consists of my immediate family, a handful of friends, and my partner and that’s enough for me. It’s a group of people who I trust, who uplift me and inspire me when I’m feeling low and so much more. I have been relying extensively on my support network at the minute with everything that’s going on in my life.

They can act in small ways such as helping me with food or simply understanding that at the moment I am quite limited in what I can do, or it could be greater gestures such as taking me to appointments throughout each week which had been a fair amount at the end of last year.

Once upon a time I wouldn’t have dared to seek support in others, I thought I had to rely on myself because it felt like it would all be a misunderstanding. It could cause the greatest suffering to myself, opening up in a way that I didn’t feel comfortable with. But now, I have no qualms about seeking support because I know it will be there.

It can be hard personally because we are thought of in society that we should be individualistic.

Pulling our socks up and getting out there.

Doing what we need to do.

But I am here to challenge this notion. We only got to where we are today because of collective support, I’ll say that again, we only got to where we are today because of collective support, collective intuition, collective knowledge, collective strength and collective hope. So why is it that nowadays it is frowned upon to ask for help even in things such as our daily jobs? Why is it we who have chronic conditions be the reason to blame when we cannot pull our socks up and do what what society deems correct?

I dislike living in an individualistic society where I have to live under the court of public opinion that does not fit the narrative my life has took. I know of so many people who have tried to go it on their own and haven’t succeeded. I see it hurt them time and again, and through my previous work I learned that we cannot do it alone. It is simply impossible, there is always someone around who will help another individual, I firmly believe in that.

When I finally learned the confidence to speak out about when I needed help and what kind of help I needed, I was glad. I managed to gradually spread that to my few trusted friends, to my current partner and my family. While I can sometimes feel like a burden, I suppose this is all natural, I am grateful for all that they do for me. I feel no shame in asking for support, for encouragement, for love, for inspiration, for strength, for kindness: especially kindness. It is a basic human right to show others kindness, compassion and understanding; this is essential in a support network.

More importantly we all deserve a support network, we all deserve our little community that give us strength and clarity and hope among many other things. If you feel so isolated and like you have no one, I promise you there is someone and that someone will turn into many people who will be what they you need them to be. We cannot go through life alone otherwise what kind of life is it?

This is something I am passionate about. I am grateful for my support network and I love them all dearly. Although at times it may feel like I don’t deserve them, in reality I do, because I help them back and I won’t forever need help getting around the house. I might go through long periods where I do a lot other times a little, my life is uncertain right now now but having a support network grounds me and there are so many benefits to having us apart network. I say to you, you deserve the love and support that I have received and more.

All the loving-kindness to you,

L x