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 🙂

A name, an identity

Dearest lovely readers,

How are you all faring? Good, I hope.

Let us get straight into this, names and identities are powerful things. They are the things that make our first impressions to others, they are the package of who we are and how we present ourselves. Our identity is composed of many things from what we wear to how we behave and feel and think; it is our values and morals, our labels. Names therefore are massively important because they are what we identify ourselves with, much like a parcel of food is labelled, our name is what signifies the rest of us. When we introduce ourselves, when our names are called, we answer and we show up.

 

Our name is a gift

When we are first born, our caregivers give us a name that they feel gives us the right “identification”. It is a gift to say, you are human, you are a person in your own right, we love you and wish you blessings with this. Now for many reasons, names are changed as people grow. This can be due to transitioning into a different gender or changing a surname as we get married. In essence, we can also gift ourselves our identity on our own terms. For example, we change surnames in marriage to symbolise the coming together of a partnership we have chosen.

 

Names categorise

Having such an identifier is common. Everything has a name. Whether it is a person or a plant, or species of animal. We humans love to categorise and this includes when meeting someone for the first time. We learn so much from the name, we learn how that person will act and behave and make assumptions. We categorise the origin of their name and thus learn more about the person and their history. We can determine if we like people, or what their name might signify. Our brains are hardwired to categorise, it is literally in our nature. Knowing someone’s name makes it easier to categorise someone as a friend, an acquaintance or unfriendly.

 

Differences are evident

In some cultures, the family name is recognised first before the individual’s name. This is important as it symbolises the rich history of a person’s family, and again they can be categorised. Family is important to our identity as they give us our roots from which we build our foundations. However, I have noticed here in the West this can sometimes be ignored and reverted to our own ways of identification.

My own name

Now to be a bit more personal. My name can be categorised as ordinary and common. My surname is Smith, just to give you an idea. I was given my name simply because my mother liked it which is lovely. She loved a name so much she chose it for her second daughter. My sister has a middle name that she has passed onto her daughter – a hopeful tradition in my eyes. It shows the beauty and options of how we decide people may live their lives.

Given I live in a blended family, I adored my step family’s culture, I asked my step-grandfather to translate my name, and thus I was given a Chinese name which I treasure to this day. I am even contemplating changing my surname to my stepfather’s in honour of him. I feel this decision gives me power over my destiny and feel more true to myself. 

Names have so much power, psychology can reduce it to a sound we recognise as us. But names are so much more, we have to sit with them every moment of our lives. There are so many options and reasons why we are given names. They form a massive part of our identity and who we are, how we are meant to live up to them, we respect the gift. Of course, the gift may not always we welcome and people are now free to go by nicknames or change their name altogether, and this is valid. We all have our reasons for changing should the occasion arise. If our identity does not sit right with us it can impact our well-being, our mental state can be hindered. 

Names are beautiful. 

Much love,

L x

A humble return

Dearest lovely readers,

As 2021 gradually closed so much has happened. I am now ready to return to the blogosphere, the posts will probably be one every two weeks as I gradually return to the world.

First I’d like to discuss a little of the bad things that happened to me.

Since posting, my heart broke twice. I lost both of my guinea pig companions, first Blossom in September which was long and drawn out. Brenda the week of my birthday in December which happened so suddenly. Losing Brenda shuck me back a few steps in recovery, I was not ready. I also have become more estranged with my biological father through his actions – I’m not as surprised as it happened. He lives around 7 miles away and I haven’t seen him in over a year and I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

However, despite all this drama, and upheaval much good came out of the year.

I saw my beautiful sister finally become a bride, and a great one at that. It was probably occasion of the year for me, she was radiant and seeing her so happy was truly wonderful and so pure.

I have found new volunteer work as a Recovery Coach which I’m just starting, it’s all very exciting!

I have decided to change my last name. Names are a funny thing, it’s essentially a sound that we recognise as “us”. And I’d like to explore the phenomenon in a future post. But my surname does not feel like my identity anymore so will be taking a surname in honour of my stepfather.

I have renewed my sense of self, finally love my body, have a determination to move out and find work later in the year. Once. My health problems have been sorted which I’m currently actively trying to do. Because we can’t stay stuck forever.

Mental health services are currently lagging but I’m trying my best to work with them.

So much is happening and to ensure I dedicate time to exploring all things well-being; here is a draft schedule of the topics to come:

Grief and well-being

Why change can be good

Name and identity

The concept of self-love and body positivity

Spirituality and well-being

I hope these topics sound interesting, if there is anything you wish for me to cover, comment or message me on the contact form.

I am really excited about what 2022 has to offer and I hope you are too.

Let me know how you’ve been.

Much love,

L x

[  ] the future[  ] Self-love/body positivity/fat acceptance[  ] A reflection of the year past[  ] Spirituality

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 ramble 2.0

Dearest lovely readers,

It has been a while, hasn’t it?

Things have been tricky lately. I have been on a break on almost everything. Rambles and updates seem to be a favourite so here goes…

I spent a couple of weeks with my partner in the south west. The train down saw me stranded in the rain for a few hours before I got on track to my destination. The stress caused a week of exhaustion. But, despite the worsening mental health, it was still lovely to be beside the sea. I had some beautiful gelato and plenty of hugs and down time.

In the good news, I have just 2 weeks to wait for my degree classification. My nerves are starting to get jittery. I am eager to see my scores. The first part of my future being concluded. It is after all, 5 years in the making.

This week I was told I have fibromyalgia. This wasn’t a shock as such, more an answer and validation of what I have been going through so long. I still have yet to come to grips with having yet another chronic condition at just 25 years old. It can be quite daunting, can’t it? I have realised I have yet to speak of my physical condition history. Maybe my next post? It is all very new to me and I look forward to learning more. It is my hope that in the coming months I will learn better pain management techniques and slowly build up endurance. I may never get to where I once was but I hope to be able to at the very least be functional through my pain.

My mental health has been a greater pain lately. I will be honest and say things are getting worse. I’m reliving things I’d sooner forget. My care coordinator believes there is a strong possibility I have PTSD. So in the coming months I will also be seeking answers for this. I want answers as to what could be causing my dissociation which is occurring nearly every day. In August I hope to have an overhaul of my medication and to start the assessment process.

Now life in general?

I am getting by.

Everything is slowly opening back up. I went to the cinema yesterday and my anxiety was outstandingly high! Clearly, I have gotten out of practice being outside. It is going to be hard to adjust. I saw my two best friends Friday evening which was lovely, but I felt a little… well, I’m unsure. I don’t have many friends these days, but I appreciate those two like you wouldn’t believe. I have many challenges to face it seems.

I have been pondering and reflecting on my life, the way I have made changes. Whilst I am limited, I have faced loneliness. I have faced my other self-states. I am still going.

Whatever challenges you may be facing, I hope you keep going too.

All my 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

Nearing the end of a degree

Dearest lovely readers,

It’s been a while since I spoke about my personal life, and it’s been a while since I last posted. Life is just a whirlwind for me, or is it for you too?

A few weeks ago I submitted my dissertation and first ever research project focusing upon positive psychology. I got my grade back at 82%. I’m so proud of what I have accomplished. Since then I have submitted more assignments with just one left before I get a degree offer at the end of July.

I have been doing this degree since 2016, 5 long years. I think about all that I have gone through, how much has changed. I don’t think I could ever summarise this part of my life, the evolution I have gone through. For someone who thought they’d never accomplish anything, I’m getting there.

Getting a degree means the start of a life, the start of a future I love and can be proud of. It’s the start of independence for me, a sign I’m growing. I know innumerable people graduate every year, but this is something special and unique for me.

Some assignments and material was interesting and easier to get on board with, but I’ve also cried over assignments when drowning mentally and feeling like nothing would change.

There are so many options for a future career for me following getting that piece of fancy paper. I have decided on a few options. But for now, once that assignment is handed in, I will be taking a break.

My mental and physical health is still poor so I want to focus on recovering from my relapse, maybe start a new creative project, read some books. And volunteer. I have started training to be a Crisis Volunteer and hope I can go far in helping others.

Things have been a little tricky, I am always honest when I’m not okay. Some memories have been haunting me each night, things I wish I could forget. But as life goes on, so must we. I’m dealing with it better, I guess practice and exposure increases resilience.

I am starting to find joy in activities again, it’s always a slow process but we get to where we need to be. I also have some exciting trips planned as restrictions ease where I am. In just a few weeks, all being well, I shall be off to London to see my partner, we have some exciting things planned and I could not be more happy at the thought. I’m enjoying reading and finding myself to be okay in my own company again.

I guess, during these times, I want to offer a message of hope. We all have potential in our lives, and hard times come, that’s life’s nature. But we must carry on. Good things will always come back around.

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/

Living with others who have mental illness

*CW: mention of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts*

Dearest lovely readers,

Today’s topic was suggested by my own mother and so I hope my experiences may be of use to you today.

As you are aware, I am mentally ill, but I am not the only one who has mental illness in my household. Every other member does too, my mother, my step-father and my young sibling. They each have anxiety and/or depression. As you can imagine, this can be really difficult for everyone involved at times. It certainly has made an impact in recent years.

To be honest, there were points that each day someone fell ‘under the weather’ and then traded someone else the day after. It was just a loop of “who is ill today?”. There have also been longer periods where one of us needed a lot more support for a longer term due to breakdowns or episodes, if you will. The most obvious being myself, I usually have a couple months stability then all of a sudden my mother starts worrying about what I might do in the night.

It is tough, because mental illness isn’t the only thing we as humans have to deal with, life still goes on no matter whether we are struggling or not. It really is a fine balancing act. For me, when someone in this house is struggling, I am instantly in panic mode, constantly asking what I can do to help and thus stress and become unwell more myself. It truly is a very, very fine balancing act. My mother is in a constant state of worry for her children who have been struggling rather chronically, I cannot speak for her experience, but I imagine it does impact her. And it impacts my stepfather.

When I was young and first met my stepdad, things were okay, I was excited. But that quickly spiralled as became unwell, truly unwell, and had delusions that acted against him. He saved my life once when I was about to attempt suicide. He has helped me through so much of my life and I have never known how to thank him.

My mam loves her alone time on a night, a chance for her to rest, but the door is always open at any time of night. When I was a party girl I often had alcohol-induced episodes, I don’t remember the vast majority of them but those I do remember, she would cuddle me, stay in bed with me, made me sure I was safe. And while we have had our disagreements (especially where my alcohol intake was concerned) as any family would, she has been there for me despite her down days.

When I was beginning to falter last year, my young sibling started to struggle more, yet they would come see me, and I would calm them and chat and make sure they were safe, I have even tried to teach them a few coping skills and worked around their needs. I worry about them, but I know they understand that no matter what I may be going through, I am there for them.

See this is the thing, yes we cannot pour from an empty cup, but family are meant to be a support, and our family work like clockwork now. We all understand each other’s needs, if something crops up we rally around and try to help and support in any way we can. Last year was ridiculously difficult, yet out of it came better communication between the family. We connected when there was no where else to go. They say this lockdown has been harder, but we are supporting each other well. We recognise when someone is not on their A-game, we act accordingly. We share more, we are more open.

I am struggling right now, in a depth I cannot recognise, yet I am still trying my very utter best to be present, likewise with the family. Supporting other who are mentally ill in the same household, can seem impossible at times, because we all just want better well-being, we all want to cope and we can pour too much out at times. There is never a perfect recipe for this. But by being aware of what we are capable of each day allows for us to be better for ourselves and for the others. Love truly is a wonderful thing.

All my love,

L x