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: 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

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

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/

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

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