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October 30, 2018

Autumn is well and truly upon us, after one of the most glorious summers on record.  Warm, bright mornings have been replaced by a distinct chill in the air.  Days get shorter and sunlight dwindles - and then, the trees shed their leaves.  

Being a psychotherapist, rather than a botanist, I’m not too sure how this process happens, although apparently it involves chlorophyll.  (To me, chlorophyll sounds like something akin to botox).    What I find fascinating is why trees do it: to save energy. There’s just not enough sunlight to sustain them in the months to come.   Shedding their leaves keeps them from using up vital energy, which helps them to survive through the dark winter. Come the spring and the warmer weather, new life is then able to flourish.

What do we do to sustain ourselves through the hard times? In order to allow new people, opportunities or perspectives into our lives, it’s important to able to shed what is no longer necessary or useful...

February 23, 2018

Traditional counselling and psychotherapy can seem intimidating to some - walk and talk therapy is a viable alternative and can also provide huge benefits to our emotional and physical wellbeing.

December 8, 2017

Before 1965, the ‘midlife crisis’ didn’t exist...at least officially.  Then Elliott Jaques studied a number of artists, writers and musicians and concluded that over the age of 40, these individuals underwent a period of more introspection, searching for greater meaning. According to Jaques, this was as a result of an increasing awareness of their own mortality. 

So why can this stage of our lives be so stressful and anxiety-inducing?  There are many points in our lives where we go through difficult changes, but it seems that at the mid-point in our lives, there can be a number of factors at work at the same time.  Perhaps we have been in a particular career for a long time and you have increasingly felt trapped, or on the wrong path. Maybe in our personal lives, we are questioning how our relationships with others have panned out.  We may feel a lack of fulfilment, or have a sense that what we've always done or how we are used to living our lives doesn’t have the same meaning it u...

November 7, 2017

A few days ago I received a catalogue from a home interiors company (that shall remain nameless!)  The centrefold that caught my eye was one entitled, 'a Fairytale Christmas'.  Delicate gold fairylights trailed around the branches of a snow-covered tree, beneath which was the festive table, adorned with candles, wine and Scandi-style fabrics. The seating too, was beautiful, with co-ordinating cushions placed perfectly in order to complete this Christmas scene.  The aim was clear, and one we are all familiar with - that advertisers tap into our hopes, desires and aspirations,  in order to sell their products.

My initial reaction this time shocked me a little.  I felt an unease which has stayed with me and prompted me to write this blog.  It all looks so perfect, ready for the perfect Christmas dinner to rival all other Christmases. Yet in this image, no-one has arrived.  The scene creates an expectation of the kind of Christmas we are presented with in films and fairytales...

October 12, 2017

We all make judgements every day - it would be difficult to imagine a world where we didn't. Indeed, being of 'sound judgement' is seen as an attribute and often indicates a rational, clear-thinking individual.

If we judge a person, we are, by definition, categorising them somehow, in to what he or she is, or is not. Again, this is a natural process in many ways. In childhood and in our day-to-day lives we are constantly assessing the world around us...is this person trustworthy? Do I believe them? Does that person like me? Is she Slytherin or Gryffindor?

Dangers, lurk within, however. Constantly judging whether someone or a situation we find ourselves in is good or bad can blind us to acceptance and also to an appreciation that the world is rarely as binary as 'all good' and 'all bad.'

If we become judgemental of others, what then, is the impact on us? Often we judge ourselves by standards to which we wouldn't necessarily hold others. How many times have you caught yourself making excuse...

October 6, 2017

New research has found that even relatively small amounts of exercise can have a dramatic impact upon our wellbeing.

According a study conducted by the Black Dog Institute in Australia, just one hour of exercise per week could reduce cases of depression by 12%.  Over 30,000 participants were monitored over the course of 11 years, for symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as their activity levels.   

Associate Professor Samuel Harvey of the Black Dog Institute commented that, 'these findings are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise – from one hour per week – can deliver significant protection against depression."

What is also encouraging is that the exercise can be spilt into smaller more manageable chunks without a loss in benefit. Making small changes to our daily routines can make a difference. 

The belief is that exercise has such a positive impact because of its effect on us, not only physically, but also socially.  Exercise combined...

September 26, 2017

It turns out that the 'soft-shelled crab' is not a distinct species like I thought it was.  All those Thai restaurant menus have been misleading me for years!   It refers, instead, to a stage in a crab's life where it sheds its hard shell, and grows a new one.  For those few days, the crab is more vulnerable until it can develop a new, solid shell to protect it from the elements once again.  It happens several times in a little crab's life, and is part and parcel of its journey from babyhood to a ripe old age.

During my counselling training, I came across the work of Douglas C. Kimmel, who focused on the life stages we humans go through. He likened life's great transitions to that of the soft-shelled crab.  When we reach a period of significant change in our lives, we shed a part of ourselves, the part that no longer fits.  We adapt and grow...that's the hope, in any case.    Whether we are consciously choosing to make a change, or we feel that a...

September 15, 2017

In an article by Robert H Lustig about his new book ‘The Hacking of the American Mind,’ there were some intriguing revelations about the impact of modern society’s constant need for instant gratification.

The bad news:

It makes for sober reading – depression and suicide rates are on the increase in the UK, as well as in the US, Germany and China.   Prescriptions for antidepressants in the UK are up by 108% from 10 years ago.  Diabetes, heart disease, dementia and fatty liver disease are snowballing into epidemic proportions.

How is our pursuit of pleasure to blame for all of this?  It’s precisely how we seek to feel happier that is contributing to the upsurge in these conditions.  Our addictions to tobacco, alcohol, sugar and, more recently, technology (which can lead to sleep deprivation) have been shown to be major factors in the development of these diseases and can also be link to ballooning rates of depression.

The science bit:

We derive pleasure from dopamine, whose pro...

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CLAIR NEILL

Counselling & Psychotherapy