Are you ready to transform “winter’s dreams into summer’s magic”?

davanti counselling st patricks day

What can the festival of ‘green’ inspire you to achieve as winter disappears? (pic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/Rattikankeawpun)

One of the prettiest quotes for St Patrick’s Day, 17th March, is this one attributed to Adrienne Cook: “St. Patrick’s Day is an enchanted time – a day to begin transforming winter’s dreams into summer’s magic.”

Stepping beyond the leprechauns, four-leaved clovers and jaunty hats that have come to characterise St Patrick’s Day, I’m wondering whether the “wearing of the green” could have more symbolic significance, given that winter is about to tip into spring? Here’s my metaphorical take on the day:

Snakes: St Patrick was legendarily attributed to have chased all the snakes away from Ireland (though an impossibility, reportedly, that there were any snakes, given the climate), and yet the timing of the feast day could represent an opportunity to chase away the snakes from your life. What is lurking in your life, sliding insidiously and hissing at your efforts? Could it be time to shed an old skin and allow a new, truer you to emerge?

Green: Symbol of rebirth, transformation, growth. Taken metaphorically, wearing green can help you focus on your heart’s desire. You can work on cutting away the weeds that are strangling your roots and preventing your potential from coming to bloom. Focus on green to sow the seeds of hope and harmony in your life.

Luck: The four-leaved clover may be a one-in-a-10,000 find, and yet some of us still hold out hope that we will find that rarity – while ignoring what we have around us. What are the gifts staring you in the face that you may not be appreciating? What are you searching, yearning for in the future that may leave you depleted in the present? Stay in the now and feel gratitude for what you have.

And those dreams into magic? It’s the time of year when New Year’s Resolutions may be a faded, embarrassed promise, and the clocks going forward represent renewed chances and more daylight to achieve something. If the timing of St Patrick’s Day really does represent an “enchanted time”, then take today as an opportunity to kick-start something you’ve been dreaming about for some time. Have you been hibernating in thought during darker hours? Promising yourself that you’ll shake yourself out of something? Today could be the time to grasp the energy of green and bring some wakefulness into your own dreams.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Why reading a good book is good for you and your relationships

Reading a good book for pleasure, not because you have to, can improve your empathy with others (pic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/imagery majestic)

Reading a good book for pleasure, not because you have to, can improve your empathy with others (pic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/imagery majestic)

Pick up a good book, lose yourself in its story, its history, its education, and you’ll feel the benefits of increased empathy for others, a boost to your relationships, and an enhanced sense of wellbeing. At least, that’s the results of a study from The Reading Agency, which – by living up to its name and reason for being – is promoting the benefits of reading. They would say that, wouldn’t they? But look beyond the headlines and the benefits of reading for pleasure aren’t just lofty claims to support a promotional message. The benefits have been identified by studying more than 50 studies and reports over the last 10 years, and across a range of age and cultural groups.

For children the benefits of reading touch on social skills. For adults, it can help improve relationships and confidence levels. For parents, it helps them to communicate better with their kids. And for older adults, reading for pleasure can help reduce symptoms of depression and dementia. Importantly, engaging in a book can help you engage more fully in other relationships, and become more empathic towards the ways other people live their lives.

The key point, however, is not to rock up and read a book because you have to, out of endurance. It’s about truly enjoying the pleasure of reading. Only then can you have have the opportunity to reap the benefits identified by the study.

I’ve enthused about this topic before, in my post on Why reading a good book can be therapeutic. I think you can’t beat reading a good book where you can lose yourself in time and space, and enter into a new world, for helping you relax, de-stress, and gain fresh perspective on the world you inhabit.

However, I’ll leave the last word on this topic to an expert. Author Phillip Pullman, President of the Society of Authors, which is involved in this project, said: “I agree wholeheartedly with what this report is saying about the importance of reading for pleasure. When I write a story I hope to beguile, to enchant, to bewitch, to perform an act of magic on and with my readers’ imaginations. [This quote] remains true: ‘The true aim of writing is to enable to reader to better able to enjoy life, or better to endure it.'”

Your ‘weekend effect’ could depend on how happy you are in your job

Happiness levels in your job will depict how much you enjoy your weekends (pic courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos/net/Mr Lightman)

Happiness levels in your job will define how much you enjoy your weekends (pic courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos/net/Mr Lightman)

Do you live for the weekend, counting down the hours and minutes until clock-out time from work on Friday? Or is the weekend merely a continuation of a socially complete, happy lifestyle? The answer to that will depend on how satisfied you are with your job, how well you get on with your boss, and how much social interaction you have during the week with colleagues and friends outside work.

At least, that’s the conclusion from analysis of the ‘weekend effect’ on seven emotions – happiness, sadness, enjoyment, laughter, worry, anger and stress – of thousands of US workers in the Gallup/Healthways daily poll 2008-2012, carried out by John F. Helliwell and Shun Wang and published in an NBER paper.

They found that while stress levels were lower all round, there was no significant ‘weekend effect’ in terms of happiness or laughter for people who felt satisfied in life and work during the week. Their happiness remained pretty much constant across the span of seven days.

However, there was a marked difference in happiness levels for people who were miserable in their jobs, especially for those with micro-managing bosses and an environment where there was little trust. Their happiness levels were three times higher compared with people who had fulfilling work lives.

If five days out of seven are making you miserable, it could be time to look at why, and what you can do about it. If there’s a payoff for you at weekends, then fine. But if deep down you know you’re not living your potential or achieving what you’d always set out to achieve, then it might be time to explore some options that might just make you happier.

What are you planting today to help you believe in tomorrow?

How does your psychological garden grow?

How does your psychological garden grow?

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” This is one of the most memorable quotes from one of the world’s most iconic women, Audrey Hepburn, whose 86th birthday would have been today. It’s a quote about inspiration, and about trusting that the seeds you sow today will one day blossom into something beautiful and meaningful.

While Audrey Hepburn’s quote has been related to the humanitarian work she did for children, from a psychotherapy perspective all kinds of shoots can spring forth from this rich metaphor. Some I have in mind are these:

  • What types of thoughts are taking root in your mind? Benign, helpful ones that will later bud into positive beliefs – or negative, destructive thoughts that will build resentment and breed rot in your flowerbeds?
  • Are you eyeing up your neighbour’s flowers – as spring breathes life into gardens across your neighbourhood – wishing you could have what they have? Or do you want to trample on them in the spirit of envy because the grass isn’t greener in your life?
  • Are your entrenched behaviours beginning to stifle the significant others in your life, like ivy around a tree?
  • Is your prickliness spreading like a bramble, ready to trip people up?
  • Are you primped and prepared for everyday weathers? Or are you wild and unwieldy like an overgrown garden?

Do you wish you could bloom like a peony, rather than twist like a thorn  – but don’t know how? Are you ready to dig around in your psyche for clues as to how your life can change, and plant something more positive for your future? Then psychotherapy could be for you.

To take the first steps in helping your psychological garden to grow, call 07956 823501 or email davanticounselling@gmail.com

Why change has to happen one moment at a time

Don't rush for an xyz when your rate of change is still at abc (pietc courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/sheelamohan)

Don’t rush for an xyz when your rate of change is still at abc (pic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/sheelamohan)

People who come to long-term therapy want to change. They’re becoming more aware of what isn’t working for them in their lives. They want to introduce new ways of behaving and being in the world. Most importantly, they want to stop feeling the horrible stuff they’re feeling now.

They want a quick fix, a magic wand or potion, that will transport them from the stuckness of now to the freedom of the life they want.

Except that change doesn’t happen overnight. Hard to digest, maybe. But change isn’t ingested in a red or blue pill. Change isn’t about waking up one morning and deciding to be different. Change happens in those tiny moments of life when we decide to respond in a new way. How? (more…)

What entrepreneurs can teach us about happiness

Finding your own compass can be key to happiness in life (pic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/David Castillo Dominici)

Finding your own compass can be key to happiness in life (pic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/David Castillo Dominici)

Is happiness about following your own way in life? A thought-provoking article by Luke Johnson in the FT suggests it is. If so, then people seeking their purpose and potential in life could learn a lot from entrepreneurs.

People who choose to run their own businesses aren’t just doing it for the money – though that can be a benefit. They’re doing it to make their own choices in life, and to be in charge of their own destiny.

Even though the first years of being an entrepreneur can be tough – financially and personally – running their own show is preferable to being given orders by someone else. They know the link between reward and success, and they work hard to achieve what they really want. They get where they are through their own efforts, rather than jumping through hoops to impress a boss they don’t like to gain a promotion they may not particularly want. Even when they achieve higher status at work, this can bring additional pressures to impress a new boss, who may end up stealing their ideas and leaving the person feeling lost, frustrated and wondering what life is really all about.

If that’s how we’re feeling in life, then perhaps entrepreneurs have a lot to teach us. (more…)