Write a Letter of Thanks

writing

Continuing the theme of kindness and looking after your mental health, I thought I would talk about writing a letter of thanks.

This is something I read about in Martin Selligman’s book Flourish. If you have not heard of him Martin Selligman is a Professor of Psychology and one of the originators of Positive Psychology. His website Authentic Happiness is worth a visit. If you do visit have a go at some of the questionnaires, especially the VIA survey of Character Strengths. It is long, but definitely an eye opener.

Anyway back to the point. So this letter of thanks, is an exercise suggested by Martin to improve your level of happiness. As mentioned yesterday, Psychologists have proven that being kind and making others happy, has a profound effect on your own happiness.

This is what you do. Think about all the milestones in your life. Ask yourself, who helped you at that time. What part did they play in your milestone? Was it an action, or was it a word of encouragement? Then do you see them regularly? Do they realise that they played a role in that milestone? Did you ever get chance to say thank you? If you have answered no to the last 3 questions, then why don’t you write a letter of thanks to them.

Start your letter with: ‘I want to thank you for the positive impact you have had on my life. I never got the chance to thank you at the time, so I have decided to take the time to write down what you did for me.’

Once you have written your letter the letter, if you don’t know where they live find out. Now don’t post that letter. Deliver it by hand. Then when you meet them don’t just hand them the letter and walk away before they read it. Tell them you have written a letter to them, and if they don’t mind you would like to read it to them. Then sit down and read it to them. This is the important bit, sharing your appreciation for them, with them face to face is so powerful, you may feel embarrassed at first but that will pass quickly, then you will both be smiling, laughing a crying, remembering those times.

Life is to short to wait for opportunities to let someone now how much we appreciate, we should make the opportunities.

If you feel able try it out. Remember the people we overlook when giving our thanks are those closest to us, we don’t always have to look far to find someone worthy of our appreciation

Have you been kind today?

4816bb0112710423e9b492d31b56863a

Today in the UK is National Kindness Day. A day to celebrate all acts of kindness, to promote kindness to our fellow inhabitants on this earth.

As you expected this kind of day is right up my street. However everyday,  in my book should be kindness day, but I get why someone in the twittersphere decided we should have a day. Not that I think we are unkind, but I think we are often so wrapped in our own lives, we miss opportunities to be kind.

A day like to day challenges us to think about how we can be kind. You have probably heard on social media about grand gestures of kindness, but being kind should be a habit and not something saved up for one grand event.

Carrying out small acts of kindness is more likely to become habit forming. Something as simple as smiling and saying good morning to a stranger, or offering to help someone who is lost, are small but can have a lasting impact.

It is amazing how powerful an act of kindness can have on your own mood. I have been kind to 3 strangers today and on all 3 occasions I felt a lift in my mood.

Days like to day often encourage us to be kind to strangers, but don’t forget those people closest to you. We can take the ones we love for granted. I know I can be short tempered with my family and don’t always think about going out of my way to be kind. It is so important to do something simple to show them how you love them. Again not only will it make them feel happy, but will make you happy too.

Go out of your way to be kind everyday. Make it a goal each day. You will notice the difference in you mood almost immediately.

maxresdefault

Heads Together

Today the news has been covering the #headstogether campaign, showing celebrities talk about their mental illness or poor mental health. I found it immensely helpful.

Yesterday I shared a story about my own experiences. I now find it liberating talking about Foggy and his unhelpful habits, but I still have that worry that I shared too much at the back of my mind. Its probably Foggy being a prat. But it still gives me that slight unease. So hearing the likes of Andy Flintoff and Professor Green share their feelings is so helpful. It means I am not alone .

If you are suffering, don’t suffer alone, we all care about how you feel. Reach out to someone, talk about it.

Foggy

Let me introduce you to Foggy. You may remember Collingwood my imaginary friend from my childhood. Well Foggy is sought of my imaginary friend from my adulthood, only he is not as nice and helpful as Collingwood.

Generally his conversations with are often very negative, he has been known to call me useless, stupid, an idiot, lazy, you get the picture. Foggy is my Black Dog. He is that nagging voice at the back of my mind. No doubt most of us have a Foggy, some are more vocal than others, and some of us are able to tune him out.

Foggy has only recently been given a name, in fact up I didn’t even acknowledge his existence. I thought the all that negativity was the real me and I hated myself. The happy friendly Matt that everyone saw was just a show.

I was typical of many people I suppose as I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had poor mental health. I didn’t want to think of myself as Mental. I was possibly afraid that I was mentally ill. Therefore my mental ill health manifested itself as back pain or shoulder pain. The pain I experienced was real however. If you tense your back, neck, shoulders and jaw for 13 hours a day it will hurt, and if you dehydrate yourself with 20 fags a day. I was a mess. It was impacting on work, when I was there I was not performing and often I was off sick. I was not an easy person to be around. That made me worse and I hated myself even more.

My recovery started when I was listening to 5 live, Mark Ramprakash was being interviewed about his depression. It hit me like a sledgehammer, I started crying and couldn’t stop. It took me another 6 months to tell my GP, and then he started me on medication. That took the edge off things, but I still was not confronting the problem. I just made Foggy a bit groggy.  I was on the medication for a year. Just at the end of the medication I started my coaching qualification. That opened my eyes to positive psychology, and I started to learn about optimism. A few months later I started working with a friend on a Mental Health Awareness day, he is a Mental Health Trainer, and his explaination of mental health and mental illness raised my self awareness even more.

I then sought out my own coach, and named Foggy (and drew him). I then stopped fighting Foggy, and in fact I grew to quite like him. In fact now I love him.

See Foggy has only had my best interests at heart, the same as Collingwood. They are after all both me. Collingwood bigs me up, and tells me how great I am, which is nice but not always helpful. Now Foggy tells me I can’t do things or that I should be careful. The problem is that I tried to keep Foggy quiet and shut him up, so he would get louder and more abusive eventually drowning out Collingwood. The more he did that the more I fought him, and the stronger he got.

Now I appreciate both, I need Foggy’s realism to keep me safe, I need Collingwood to help me succeed.

It took me 40+ years to realise that feeling bad is just as valid as feeling good and we must never try to avoid negative thoughts, we should listen and take note, after all we are wiser than we think.

Don’t get me wrong Foggy still goes off on one most days, in fact most mornings he calls me a useless bastard, but now I dont try to stop him, I let him rant for 2 minutes then he shuts up. We are not morning people.

If you are struggling don’t suffer alone, talk to someone.

Writing this has been part of me looking after my mental health. It works, I have just realised that I have acknowledged that I love myself, which is a life first.

Live by your values

Nearly everything I write on here is from the heart and is based on my own acceptance of who I am. That is why I have been so prolific over recent days. I feel much more aware of myself and less worried about what people think. I wouldn’t say I feel completely liberated from the fear of looking stupid but I definitely feel more self confident and self aware.

The first thing you have to accept is that there will always be people to will not like you not matter what you do. Dislike is maybe a strong word, more they will never understand you, and never really accept what you say. However there will always be a group of people that will always accept you and like you (within reason obviously). Then there is a third group that do not really have an opinion either way but may start to like you if you meet their expectations.

Once you realise this you can stop stressing about what people think. You cannot change what people think, you cannot turn somebody into something they are not, so don’t stress yourself out trying. Trying to please everyone around you ultimately stresses youout and can make you deeply unhappy.

The most important person to youmust be you. You have to please yourself before we can make anyone else happy.

A question to ask yourself is. Do I know what makes me tick? What are my values? What is most important to me?

I may have said this in previous blogs, but it is worth repeating. Write down 10 (if you can) values that you hold dear. Having a loving family, for instance. Start with the obvious ones that family and home, and fulfilling job, then think a little harder for instance one of my values appreciation above anything else, it is important for me to appreciate what someone has done and for others to appreciate me. If I don’t receive it or if someone does not think I have shown it, it upsets me.

Anyway if you managed 10 that is brilliant, if not don’t worry. Then ask yourself do all my actions reflect my values? Is there any actions that contradict my values? How do I feel about that? Can I change these actions or stop doing them altogether? What are the consequences of changing them?

Sometimes changing the way you behave to meet your values is not as easy as it sounds. It can take time to change how you act and behave. But keep examining your values to give youself the reason to change.

Once you start along that process you start feeling a lot happier, and as a result people respond positively to you without you having to try to please them. And those that never liked you still don’t like you, so sod them, it’s their loss. Some of those that were indifferent might even start liking you, but that is only if they want to. The most important thing is that you like and accept who you are.

As I said at the beginning, I am doing this and it works. I had a coach at the beginning because I felt lost. She asked me some quality questions that really challenged me and made me think, about what I really wanted in my life. I tell you those 4 coaching sessions changed my life. Every day now I challenge myself to be true to my values and do what is right to them, and I accept and like myself a whole lot more now than I ever have.

Some one recently described my coaching of them as life changing and I thought that was them being nice about me. They weren’t they were describing the coaching process. When both the coach and the client work together it can be incredible.

If you think some coaching will work for you, get in touch we can talk and see if it will suite you. It may just change your life.

How to manage that red mist


When I was writing my story, I remembered that during my pre-school and early school years I had an imaginary friend called Collingwood (strange name I know). My dad around that time spent some time based at HMS Collingwood in Gosport, and I imagine the name must have grabbed my imagination.

Collingwood was my ideal friend. Well that is how I see him now, obviously I was only 6 at the time so to me he was someone to play with when no one else was around. He was considerate to my feelings, he always listened to what I was saying, he always let me have a go, and he never took over games. He was perfect, apart from when I wanted to play catch or hide and seek of course.

More about Collingwood and his wonderful attributes later.

I often have conversations with people about how they feel about parenting or their leadership roles and how often they feel guilty or upset by their responses to their children or staff. These responses are triggered by confrontation, inaction or poor performance. They often say how I responded or wanted to respond was not how a leader or a parent should act. I know I can definitely relate to that feeling. If you react it often ends in an escalation of hostilities or at best an awkward atmosphere. If you manage to suppress your thoughts you often cannot think of anything else to say as you are too upset or angry and a solution is still not found. Either way both parties end up feeling upset or angry with themselves as well as the other person.

This is completely normal. For those of you familiar with Professor Martin Peter’s book ‘The Chimp Paradox’ will know that when you are or feel under attack the limbic system in your brain (your chimp) leaps into action and goes on the attack, not giving your more considered frontal lobe (your human) chance to think of a more constructive response. Even if you manage to stop the verbal attack your human will look into the memory store of your brain for previous precedents to help with the response, unfortunately due to the speed of response required it comes up empty handed. Therefore leaving you feeling foolish as well as angry.


This is where Collingwood the imaginary friend comes in. Well not Collingwood but your version.

Spend about 10 minutes imagining your ideal friend or leader. Write down all his or her attributes, how they react to people, how they behave under pressure, what their world views are. If you can spend as long as you can on this. Write their attributes down, if it helps drawer them. Bear with me, it does work. Carry them with you, use them as your role model. This is you exercising your frontal lobe and laying down some constructive memories about how to respond to difficult situations that can be used at short notice.

So when confronted by your stroppy teenager with unrealistic and downright ridiculous requests, you can take a breath and say to yourself….. “what would Collingwood say?”

Now don’t get me wrong it will not always work, especially when you first start trying it. It will work though and will help you avoid those trivial rows or creating a difficult atmosphere at work, and make you feel happier.

Give it a go. If you want to discuss this further email me: matt@mattycoach71.com

Parenthood

As it is Mother’s day I thought I would write an extra blog on the subject of parenting young people.

We love our children more than anything else in the world. We want the best for them, we don’t want them to feel pain. We want them to be a success in life whilst avoiding the failures and setbacks we experienced.

Every time we try to steer them in the right direction, every time we pass on our experience, we get ignored or told to stop interfering. ‘What do you know?’ ‘Its’ not like that nowadays.’ ‘You don’t understand the pressure I am under.’

You know what? They are right. We have not got a clue what it is like being a teenager. The only time you know what it is like being a teenager is when you are a teenager. We think we remember what it was like being a teenager, but most of that memory is not accurate, and most of our experience is long forgotten.

How do you feel when someone tells you how to live you life?

Teenagers and young adults are biologically hard-wired to want to take risks and push boundaries, to start laying foundations for their adult life. They are supposed to not listen to you and try it themselves.

Now this is a big shift in how you are expected to be as a parent. You have spent the first decade and a half protecting you children. Keeping them close, providing them with exciting and new experiences to make them a well-rounded individual. Spending hours watching them at Judo, Karate, Street Dancing and countless other classes. Hours cheering them on playing Football, Rugby, and Netball. Not anymore. They now seem to resent your helpful cheers and technical sporting advice. This is heartbreaking, you think they don’t need you anymore. You are so wrong. They need you more than ever, you just need to change your approach.

The time of passing on advice and being directive have gone. The time has come to listen to what they say, to show support and interest without being overwhelming. Most importantly you need to be there right behind them for when they fall. Not to catch them but to pick them up and encourage them to try again.

It is so hard watching the one you love make mistakes, and feel pain, but so important. If you think back to all your failures and knockbacks. That is where you created your resolve.

Giving your children the space to grow, is so much harder than it seems, but is worth the heartache.

If you are struggling and want to talk further email me;

matt@mattycoach71.comIMG_4871