PERMA: Engagement

Dearest lovely readers,

Gosh it has gotten grey all of sudden here. Things are a little difficult for me at the moment given I am currently coming off some medication, it is tough side effects but I am doing it. Let us get straight into today’s topic: engagement.

What is engagement?

Engagement refers to being able to fully commit to a task, finding a ‘flow’ and being completely absorbed in what you are doing at the present moment. It means you recognise you are good at what you are doing, feel appropriately challenged though still achievable, and it causes positive emotions. When you are engaged, it means you can adapt the tasks to your skill level allowing for more challenges and can use your strengths as much as possible.

Seligman himself describes it as being “one with the music” and follows Csikszentmihalyi’s (1989) concept of “flow”, where one can be completely absorbed into the present moment. It occurs when the correct balance of strengths and challenge are found.

A key way to find engagement is through using your “character strengths”. Now character strengths relate to 24 elements that make us who we are. They fall into six categories: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. These were found based on the ideologies of major religions and philosophical proponents.
(Note: you can use the VIA survey to find out your key strengths or here under ‘questionnaires’)

So, how do you incorporate engagement into your life?

That is the thing, there is no one way. But, I can give you a few ideas. If you’re into journalling feel free to use the prompts below.

  • What are your strengths?
  • What are you good at?
  • What do you enjoy?
  • How does _(hobby)_ make you feel?
  • What do you want to do more of?
  • Can you schedule that in?
  • What makes you lose track of time?

But otherwise, if you feel you already have activities you love doing and find yourself losing time to, whether embroidery, knitting, sculpting, arts, literature, sports. Keep doing it, add more if you can. Using our free time for engagement can bring forth so much connection to ourselves, and others if you are in classes or teams. It generates joy and abundance.

My personal story

One thing I have been struggling with the past few years is the kind of work I want to do. I want something that brings the right kind of challenge and puts my own strengths to use. When I first started my degree I wasn’t sure what I would do beyond “Psychologist”. Now, there are SO many ways I can use my degree, and my passion. For a start I created this blog. I am seeking out roles where I can be engaged because it the largest part of anyone’s life if they are able to work. I now know I want to work preferably in the public or charitable sector, I need homebased because I have strength in being able to work from one specific spot (not to mention easier on my disabilities). I want to help people, I want to be front line rather than a researcher. Researching, isn’t entirely my strength.

When I was so low, I lost interest and engagement in anything that wasn’t partying or being up at 5am to study. But naturally, as you know, I have started goal to keep me engaged in my hobbies, and goodness it works. I find I can get lost in my writing, and my reading and mindful walking.

The beauty of having not only character strengths, but recognising your other strengths outside of that. I struggled in finding what I wanted but character strengths let me recognise beyond what I initially thought, they have helped guide me to find more engagement and new platforms.

Let me know your thoughts!

Much love,

L x

PERMA: Positive Emotions

Dearest lovely readers,

What a beautiful sunshine day here as I write to you. It feels like spring is truly coming, does it not?

Today’s topic is positive emotions within the the PERMA model. Now it sounds simple enough to add positive emotions to your life, but it can also be a bit vague. What are the positive emotions? What impact do they really have?

Within positive psychology, positive emotions are connotated to be feelings of satisfaction and comfort. It is about feeling good (hedonic) and allow you to feel kindness and gratitude more. According to University of Pennsylvania, the impact can be astounding. Experiencing positive emotions on a more regular basis can alter your worldview of not only the present, but also the past and future. By looking on your past more positively you can find gratitude and forgiveness. Utilising savouring and mindfulness in the present you find yourself more comfortable with your current circumstances. By practicing further, you can find hope and optimism for the future.

However, ultimately seeking out positivity purely through emotions is not the only thing your should be doing. Positive emotions are seen as the foundation upon which the rest of the model sits. If you have a negative disposition it can be harder to instil positive emotions. Luckily, there are four other routes. Likewise, we all cannot feel positive 100 per cent of the time, that just isn’t possible as a human being.

It is widely reported by Seligman and many other psychologists that positive emotions lay out the foundations, that you find more kindness and compassion and can perform better. Being in a positive disposition can ultimately, change your worldview.

So, how do we incorporate positive emotions into our well-being?

For a start, you can practice gratitude which is a previous blog post I have written here. Gratitude is the concept of being grateful for even the smallest of things in life, such as a nice cup of tea on a rainy afternoon snuggled up. It may be better having a journal specifically for gratitude, or even a piece of paper with a list of things you love and make you happy and grateful.

Savouring is also a positive element. Bryant and Veroff (2007) describe savouring as appreciating and intensifying positive experiences through the means of acknowledgement. So for example, this could be enjoying a meal by engaging in the smells and tastes. It can be possible to bring mindfulness in to this.

Journaling and self-reflection are also an easier way to bring emotions to the forefront such as your resilience and focusing on prompts like those below:

  • What do you want more of?
  • What inspires you?
  • Who celebrates you?
  • What brings joy?
  • What ‘simple things’ do you love?
  • What centres you?

By utilising journaling you can go deeper into what brings out positive emotions.

My personal story
Having Borderline Personality Disorder has often made every emotion feel difficult and painful, and not quite real. Self-regulation and balancing emotions has been a difficult and stressful activity since I was very young. During and after therapy and through many medical interventions, even now, I still struggle sometimes. But emotions are more balanced these days. I have been able to increase how much positivity I feel through hobbies and activities. You will often find me reading, or writing, meditating, practicing gratitude and doing mindful activities. Doing these things regularly was a game-changer for me. I am then able to channel these emotions into thinking and planning my future better, to seek optimism more faithfully.

Bringing more positive elements to your life, such as more hobbies (yoga, exercises, art, music etc.) and social interactions like classes, clubs or seeing more of your loved ones can bring more positive emotions. If you do this regularly it can be easier to regulate emotions and find a balance. I ensure I keep up hobbies through small goal making.

Take away: positive emotions are the foundations of building a brighter you, you become kinder and more compassionate, able to perform better and change your environment.

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

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, naïve 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

The power of small: Time to Talk Day

Good morning my lovely readers,

I’d like to take a moment for you to check in with yourselves, how are you doing? For many, January seems to have been a long, hard month, a difficult time for many. I hope you are all well.

Next Thursday is a special day. It is the final Time to Talk Day. For those whom may not know what TTTD is, it is a day ran by Time to Change encouraging everyone to have a conversation with people around mental health in order to end mental health stigma. It is the final one now that Time to Change is ending. The theme is “the power of small”.

I am enjoying this theme because it really does remind me of how powerful “the small” can be. Many are hosting online events or campaigning on social media. As I do not have social media I won’t be partaking on the likes of Instagram or Facebook.

The aim is to remind people that you don’t have to great gestures to make a change in someone’s life, simply asking a friend or a family member how they are doing can be just as powerful. For myself, I am going to be sending an email/letter to my MP in the hopes of being able to raise more awareness in the community and see if anything can be done to help those becoming unwell in my local area.

The power of small is mighty. We don’t have to focus on a specific day, we can live the power of small. Realistically, we all have small actions that set the foundations of our days, which can ultimately transform our life. Small is the foundation. You don’t start your morning without many small actions such as hydrating yourself, getting dressed, when unwell, these “basics” can make all the difference.

Sometimes we have to go back to our foundations as a way of building back up and to foster more positivity within us. Get to where we need to be. Those foundations are small, but they’re strong.

I try to remember that small actions mean a lot, I also try to embed it with kindness. Because if we are kind to one person, or five people, in our lives or strangers, in a week, we might help an awful lot of people that way. We give a sense of meaning and community to us and those around us by showing small acts of kindness, even just by checking in with them.

So I hope you have some lovely conversations this week, and may you have a wonderful week ahead.

All my love,

L x

Year in review and looking ahead

Hello dear ones, how are we feeling?

I’d like to take a little moment just for you to check how you are feeling, take a deep breath and just settle in for a little read. I’d also like to thank you all, our little community, for all your support this year. I’m so thankful for those of you reading my posts, my thoughts on different topics, it’s been quite the year hasn’t it? Welcome to all the very new people too, you are most welcome here.

This is a bit of a stereotypical post I suppose but I feel like doing it anyway. This year has undoubtedly been hard, at times heart-wrenching, and chaotic, I could easily list and rhyme off countless miseries of the year. But I’m more about hope in this little space. At times it can be more powerful than sadness and fear, which a lot of people can experience at this point. A time when post festive season blues can kick in, or when it can feel daunting that another year is here. People online mocking those thinking 2021 will “magically” be better. But I say, what’s stopping it from being like that?

Now, I’ve pretty much kept you all up to date on what I have been going through but I thought it’d be great to just have a little summary post of things I have enjoyed, little moments, small wins and what I’m so looking forward to now in this new year.

I think one of my all time favourite moments of 2020 was when I was down at my partner’s and we spent a hot, sunny day on the beachfront, sat on a bench and watching innumerous dogs pass by. It was just such a wonderful time, where I felt carefree and I was with my favourite person. We were just sat there for over an hour, and I loved it. Christmas was also so, so wonderful and I got to take plenty of Polaroids to put in a new scrapbook, very retro. Much earlier in the year I got to present and do a bit of motivational speaking for the first time, rather than purely speaking my experiences. It was so much fun!

I am proud of a few accomplishments of 2020 including passing another year of university with flying colours, starting my final year. I have, this festive season, tried two new foods and really enjoyed them. Earlier in 2020 I also found I could watch certain foods cook without being so averse to it. These are huge wins on their own.

I have learned the true value of gratitude and been so appreciative of my aspects of my life. My strength truly has been tested like never before and I’m still coming out winning. As my dissociation got worse, I became so afraid, but with the help of others and through my own self-determination I’m getting back on track. Again, I’m very grateful for this.

So what’s ahead? Well, a lot. This will be the year I finally graduate, I am hoping to do my Master’s Degree if not finding a job in mental health. I will be moving out, across the country. I hope to do more volunteering. I will be continuing this blog. I will get answers about what is causing all my physical pain, I will be trying to get my body stronger. I hope to finally be able to have savings.

It’s definitely sounding like a lot for that. But for now, my goals for the first quarter are to focus on assignments, get a little workout regime sorted and eat a little better, have a small emergency savings fund, focus on deepening my connection to Buddhism and finding a new volunteering placement. Little actions with little steps are the key here. Of course, I will also hopefully create some good content for you here as this section of the internet has been so wonderful for me. I hope that is reciprocated.

I hope you are able to find some wins in 2020, and I hope you all have a magical year ahead filled with such joy, goodness and happiness.

Be gentle with yourself and take care,

L x

Reflections on November

Hello all my lovelies,

If you read my posts you know I love a good reflection. So I thought, why not reflect on a tumultuous month such as November?

I will be honest, November is a month I am struggling to remember giving that my mental state is not at a decent capacity. There were definitely some atrocious days but I can’t say it was all entirely bad and these words have such strange meanings, I guess the correct version would be it was a hard-hitting month.

So I have a couple of topics in mind, let’s take it that way. I think rounding up with all the things that cause stress would just make this a very depressing post. While I’m not for toxic positivity I do think I need to be realistic.

So, let’s start with relationships. Relationships are often a foundation of how we cope, they are apart of us. Having at least someone to back us up can make all the difference. I can happily say I have had no problems with support and positive relationships during November. My family may not have understood what I was going through, but they checkeup on me and helped where they could. Whether that’s taking up additional chores from myself or feeding my wonderful guinea pigs: and they gave me respect. My partner was fantastic, he was essentially my sounding board and while I tried to be a good partner to him, he was very respectful when I couldn’t give 110 percent all the time. So no complaints here!

I guess health would be the more contentious issue. I will be straight up honest and say that my GP he was of no use during this time, I understand that there are many stresses going on behind the closed doors (I’ve seen what happens as a GP receptionist). But I have come to find out that when I asked for my antipsychotic back and he made no mention of my circumstances to the psychiatrist it essentially was “can L have her antipsychotic back?”, so I’m glad I took it upon myself to write a letter about my mental capacity when I was more lucid. I would like to let you know that I have since gone it back until my telephone assessment with the mental health team in a couple weeks time. They were shocked at how I have deteriorated and quite unsure as to why my GP did actually take me off it. So I am happy to say I have been sleeping for the first time in many weeks.

With physical health, I’m not further forward until I have MRIs and the next rheumatology appointment but I have since purchased a support to help me sit properly, knee braces and a cane to walk better. They do help so that is also a bonus and I haven’t gotten physically worse which I really count as a win.

University! What a bonus. It’s been a really positive one, because I got back my first assignment results for my final year at 72% and 78% which I am quite happy with. I have feedback that is constructive and can use in the next assignment to hopefully improve upon. My tutor who will be helping me on the research project in particular has been so supportive and understanding which is really just refreshing so I know, should I falter infuture they will be there to ensure that I take care of myself.

November felt truly terrible in the moment but this is why reflection is important. You gauge the true impact of each moment and my reflection has shown me that yes it was awful but I had a pretty successful November, that’s my takeaway and I think it really puts things into perspective.

Wishing you all my love,

L x

The joy of handwritten letters

Hello all, are you ready to get writing?

I’ll get straight into it, for quite some time now I have loved writing letters to people, to friends and other loved ones. I even have a pen pal who lives in Oklahoma and I’ve written letters since I was young starting with my late step-grandfather. Really there’s just something so wonderful about writing letters.

With all of this modern technology; of instant messaging, texts, calls, emails (even though that seems a bit 90s unless you work in an environment that requires emails), writing letters is seen as such an old-fashioned pastime by many people and I want to dispel the myths about this.

Let’s start with one of the main reasons why I encourage you to write a letter to someone, whether it is your future self, even a friend in the same time that you live in or your parents. It calls on connection. When you write a letter you can speak your truth in utter privacy you can ‘talk’ for as long as you want: that letter has no limits. It can be any subject of your choice and it’s your automatic thoughts and feelings on paper that allows for someone to really see how you are feeling and who you are; it doesn’t have to be reduced to characters or a few words on a status.

The recipient of a letter gets the span just a few minutes away from their lives and feeling a part of yours and I think that’s something really special. I saw the addictive and unfortunately bad side of social media but I’m not the one to discourage people from texts and emails, I still use them as a method of communication. I will not judge anyone who prefers that method I’m not anti-technology – I just love sometimes being able to escape away from my laptop, and my phone, and my Kindle, away from all the screens around me and just have this fresh sheet of paper to write whatever comes to mind. Whatever comes from the heart without embarrassment of feeling like I’m sharing too much. I feel like I can surprise someone with small gesture of openness to say, “hello, how are you, what is going on in life, take this moment to connect with me”.

Writing letters has been studied so much in regards to well-being, various mental health charities have shared their findings that writing letters and having penpals can actually reduce loneliness. Loneliness currently is an epidemic that needs to be expelled and there are such a simple tools and writing letters one of them. Writing letters is also known to help your cognition and executive function so that you have a better ability. It also improves the creativity because you are just writing and writing almost as if it was a free writing exercise.

Sometimes I feel I have so much to say but I don’t know who to say it to or how to express it and sometimes a letter can help. Or a little note to say “hey I’m thinking of you” and straying away from just letting someone see words on a screen. Not believe me, I know the power of the word and the power of the internet and I can sound hypocritical because I am writing to you on an internet blog. I have no qualms about technology, either way we interact online as long as it’s safe and enjoyable. But sometimes it can be addictive, and it can feel like you’re not really connecting to someone, and I think sometimes we have to revert to simple methods. There’s just something wonderful knowing that a bit of positive post, something a bit out of the ordinary, a little surprise comes in the mail box alongside all the bills and it can brighten someone’s day, at least that’s been my experience.

What are your thoughts on this? Because I’d love to hear other people’s opinions and I’m also up for having more penpals it means I get to buy cute letter writing sets, let me know.

All my love and happiness to you,

L x

A ramble on my health

How are we all? I sincerely hope you’re all well as the nights get earlier.

So I haven’t done a ramble in a while and I know it was liked a while back. So I thought I’d do a little update on health. I find with both my physical health and mental health, each will dip one after the other.

In August, I had a day being bedridden and thought, “I’ll heal up quickly, my arthritis has spread to my knees but I’ll be fine”. Let me tell you, it definitely was not fine. After a few blood tests, medication changes and many calls with GPs I was finally referred to a rheumatologist. I now spend most days in bed, I have almost fallen a few times because my knees have given way. Just the other day I spent 7 hours in A&E due to my ribs burning and having shortness of breath. I am rather immobile. On top of this, my mental health became disastrous at the same time which has been very rare. I had an awful episode the other week.

Yet I’m still here.

I’ll be honest, the fatigue is getting to me, I really am feeling like everything is out of control. I started November 1st utterly depressed, then manic, making lots of goals and plans to improve my fitness and mental health. Yet it was not to be after this week. And I have accepted that. I guess the fear of what is going on in the world got to me. And that is okay too.

People often say we have to help ourselves and have this notion that we can just fix ourselves when really, chronic conditions are usually pretty much here to stay.

So what have I done to help myself? I have followed basic self-care and fought to be referred to rheumatology, my appointment is next week and while I will definitely struggle to get there, I will be there. I have took up private therapy to work through everything. I am taking new medication for my mental health, having been taken off my antipsychotic and adjusting to that. I have accepted that all of this is a process that could months, but I’m prepared to see it through. But for now, I shall have to do what feels right for my body and mind, even if it’s not the way I want to be.

I have found that in these times when everything seems wrong, we must especially have hope, find the strength to keep on and keep going forward, otherwise what was the point of starting the journey to fight? I will not lose the joy and wonder of life. I will keep writing, reading, studying for uni, studying Buddhism. I will keep myself going and fill life with what I love as much as I can.

I shall also use the wonderful Black Dog Institute mood tracker to keep an eye on things and see where I’m at with myself, my 2012 style.

It is times like these where I really see the inder-dependency of both mental health and physical health and the impact of each other and how they link. When I feel so limited in my body, my mood utterly drops. When my mood is low I don’t try to do much with my body which hurts it. Times like these are why I’m so grateful for when I am well. Yet, I’m strangely grateful for these times too when I think about it and reflect. I know that doesn’t make sense. But nothing is permanent, and I learn what I can from these points and I’m reminded of my unadulterated strength of being able to get through this.

Keep going lovelies, we got this.

Much love,

L x