Delving into my childhood whilst writing my story

As you will remember I have been writing my story, to help me make sense of myself as I get older and leave a legacy for my children.

Regular readers will also remember that over recent weeks I have been struggling with January blues. In fact according to the media this week is the week where people feel their lowest, and Monday was labelled Blue Monday. As you will remember exercise has helped chase away those blues, but this week those blues have been harder to chase away, so I decided to jump back into my story.

I have been delving into my memory banks, bank to when I was a toddler, like my memories of making Christmas decorations, going cockle picking with dad and my uncle George and auntie Sheila. That made me smile, in fact it gave me warm feeling. A feeling of love and happiness. Now my childhood was by no means perfect but there was a lot of love. That love has helped me chase those blues a little further away.

Restorative powers of exercise

Since completing the 50km challenge in Movember I have done very little exercise.

I have noticed that this has had a detrimental effect on my mental health. My resilience had been much reduced. Foggy has become a regular companion on my commute to work and he has hung about filling my heads with negative thoughts.

Now couple that with the self imposed need to appear positive and happy to everyone. This had been exacerbated during December with starting a new role and it being Christmas. To me that meant that I must be positive at all costs and not show any frailty. Trying to be unerringly optimistic when you actually think you are a useless piece of shit is quite exhausting. I had a couple brief runs but never really sustained it.

Trying to break the viscous cycle is not always easy, and it is all too easy to find reasons why you can’t break that cycle of self pity and feeling so low. The thing is when you find the right excuse, you start to feel guilty which confirms your self-loathing.

This weekend I decided to give it a go again. I went for a short 1 mile run on Saturday. The feeling it produced was quite profound. As I started to plan how I was going to return to running up to 5km again. I could now see that the feelings I was experiencing are transient. I went for another 1 mile run today with a plan to run a further 5 miles over the next week, then slowly increase the distance I run in one go. I started giving myself the opportunity to succeed rather than fail. I feel so much more positive.

Now during the runs I felt like my lungs were going to explode, and Christmas really had taken its toll. But very soon after the runs I felt incredible. The feelings exercise evoke are quite amazing. I feel so much more positive, the anxiety in the pit of my stomach is going and so is the tension in my jaw. I feel happy again.

If you are feeling blue, or useless, or cannot see anything positive in your life, then consider exercise, it is remarkable. I know that all I have to do to pick up my mood is go for a run. It makes me feel safe again.

A brief look back at 2017 then full speed into 2018

New Year’s Day is a reflective day. Normally down to the over indulgence of the night before. I was a good boy this year and only had a few drinks, in front of the telly. Saying that I went for a run this morning and still felt the effects of a week of over eating and drinking.

Anyway normally when I look back at my life, like many others I get bogged down ruminating about all the events that did not go well. This is far from constructive and generally makes me feel rubbish about myself. No doubt that sounds familiar to many of you.

This year I decided to use a positive psychology approach, in fact an approach I encourage at work. Instead of constantly looking at what we don’t do well, why don’t we try to learn from what we did well. So I have looked at my achievements this year, and celebrate them. Thinking about them is easy enough, and is quite enjoyable, even inspiring. Writing them down and telling people is quite difficult, as no one likes a show off. But I am going to give it a go. Really telling people what you have done well is not showing off if you encourage others to share their successes. All it does is make us all feel happy and inspired to achieve more. That is the point of a review, to inspire your future plans using your previous recipes of success, rather than you recipes of failure.

So here are my highlights (my successes).

Most of my highlights are work related:

  • I have devised a document that incorporates a sepsis screening tool and sepsis checklist for children
  • I set up a new induction and rotation for newly qualified children’s nurses
  • I have coached 5 young people helping them to decide their future
  • I have coached 4 leaders to further develop their leadership skills
  • I have delivered human factors training to all the newly qualified nurses at our hospital trust in October, and now helping to roll out a programme for the all staff next year
  • I have started as coaching lead within the trust for a year
  • I am working in partnership with my local university, doing a meta ethnography on attitudes of young people with eating disorders to the care they receive in a general hospital.
  • I have started writing down my memories for my boys to provide them with a history of my family when I was growing up
  • I have finally accepted my depression and don’t let it control my life
  • I am optimistic now for the first time
  • I am starting to enjoy my own company and one day soon will actually tell myself how much I appreciate me
  • I am learning to share my job with someone else
  • I have started to write my own self help guide, and if it helps me I might share it with you all (for a small fee)

There may be some more achievements, but that will do.

You know what, I actually feel quite good. When you start writing it down you realise how much you have done. Give it a go, it really is inspiring. You may think that you have not done anything much. That is what I felt. It’s not true, you have, you are just conditioned not to concentrate on the positive, but dwell on the negative.

So now I have looked at what I have achieved I can look forward to what comes next. Now a number of what I have started will continue. In fact most of them will. Many of them will change and become bigger and better. This next year I also want to take part in some more research, start teaching coaching skills, further develop my coaching, and provide more coaching to more people (to make coaching accessible, and an important part of all of our lives).

2018 will be incredible and exciting if I make it. Your year ahead will be whatever you make it.

If you want to do something amazing, get in touch we can have a chat and decide if being coached is for you.

Snowflake Generation

I have heard talk in the media describing my children’s generation as the snowflake generation, implying that they have never had it so easy. This is a statement that I heard when I was in my late teens, along with ‘the young nowadays don’t know they are born’…..’they would have never got away with it in our day.’

In many respects life is increasingly easier as each generation passes. In the West we are more prosperous than our parents and grandparents. Life is physically safer.

However the young generations are faced with other risks that just were not present when I was growing up.

The thing is our brains have evolved to protect us from danger and cannot differentiate between real and implied danger. This is a problem in a world of social media, and 24 hour news. Our children can be exposed to real and perceived threat almost continuously.

Now I am not saying they are any worse of than previous generations, just that learning to be an adult is full of hazards. It always has and always will. So let’s not compare their life with yours.

Let’s support our children to be the best adults they can and cut them some slack.

Are you satisfied with your life

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From time to time I feel dissatisfied with my life. I feel I should be more than I am, that I do not live up to my potential. I should have a higher paid job, I should be living in a big house, driving a fancy car, going on exotic holidays. I should be more decisive at work, be pro-active, ruthless, a go getter. Sound familiar?

These are just some of the markers of success that our culture values, therefore we have a tendency to measure ourselves them, and decide if we are a success or not. Invariably with are not able to live up to all if any of these values. But we are constantly exposed to the idea that people around us are doing better than us. Pre-social media this exposure was limited to people we saw on the telly, the odd self publicist and gossip. Now we are all connected with have all become shameful self publicist, and now it seems even our friends and neighbours have a better life than us. This just adds to our feelings of inadequacy, and dissatisfaction. This clearly is no way to live our lives.

One answer to this problem I suppose would be to disconnect yourself from all forms of social media. But social media has so much going for it. You would not be reading this blog for one if you stopped engaging with all forms of the media. After all Facebook and Twitter are great ways to share with everyone, how much of a nice time you had, or to share a common experience, therefore adding to your feelings of satisfaction.

The answer is not to change the world but to change the way you see the world and how you respond to what you see. The first thing to do is to assess how you see yourself based on your own measure of satisfaction rather than the medias’. I like to measure myself against Martin Seligmann’s conditions that are required for happiness. Martin Seligmann suggested that to be happy the following conditions need to be present in your life. If you are happy then you will feel more optimistic about you future and therefore more likely to succeed and feel satisfied. The conditions are:

Positive Emotion; how many times a day do you laugh and smile?

Engagement; do you take part in activities that you do for the sake of it, something you don’t have to think too much about (reading, sewing, running, singing etc.)?

Relationships; how often do you see or speak to family or friends or both?

Meaning; why do you do what you do? what are your values?

Achievement; this does not have to be academic or vocational achievement, it could be baking bread for the first time, a personal best time swimming or running, anything where you have done your best, and achieved personal excellence (as good as you can do it). How many times have a you achieved this week.

Answer the questions relating to each condition above. What are areas of your life do you need pay attention to your life to be satisfied? Identify them and then plan how to address them. This is how you can be successful, rather than trying to live up to an impossible ideal imagined through our cultural idea of success.

Be happy, be what you want to be, then you will be successful.

If you want to discuss this further, or want some coaching to have a successful happy life, email me.

Matt@mattycoach71.com

Running for my mindfulness

Over the past 2 months I have been running a lot more frequently. I know try to run at least 5 times a week. I generally run 1 to 2 miles each time. Not far I know and to be honest I am painfully slow. I run mostly in the evenings during the week and in the morning at weekends. Sometimes I will mix it up and go to the gym where I will go on the treadmill and have a go at some weights.

As I said I have been doing this for a few months, in fact you may remember my previous blog posts on the subject. Naively I thought my body shape would change I would be all slim and lithe like by now. No chance I’m still a porker! I have discovered that you have to adjust you diet if you want to get slimmer, which is a shame, I am quite partial to a bag of crisps and the odd chocolate bar. Oh I will just have to be that fat bloke in sports gear.

Anyway I digress, the main reason for this blog is to describe how I now feel after running regularly for the past few months. I have mentioned before the mindfulness I experience when I run. Well now that has spilled over into everyday life. When I feel myself getting stressed out by events or thoughts I can now in most cases switch on this mindful state when I run. Even though I don’t run for long, so therefore I am only mindful for short periods everyday, that regular practice of mindfulness everyday allows me to employ the technique when I need to.

I will try to explain how it works for me. When I am running in generally hurts, mainly because I am in my mid forties and overweight, so my joints object quite strongly to moving this lump around at a greater speed. I also find that for the first couple of minutes my breathing is all over the place. So that is where I start I listen to my breathing. I don’t try to regulate it or slow it down, I just listen to it. I allow myself to be breathless for the first 2 minutes. I am then able to relax and work with my body rather than fighting it. After about 2 minutes my breathing settles down and gets into a regular rhythm. I can then use that breathing as a reference point along with the sound of my feet hitting the pavement. These are places I can bring myself back to say when my knees and ankles start hurting or when my thoughts wonder to unhelpful areas. I will also take in my surroundings, I notice the trees, the colour of the sky, cars passing by, the feel of the wind, rain or sunshine on my face. My mind quickly relaxes and allows me to experience what is happening to me now, rather than what has already happened or what might happen in the future. However if positive memories or positive plans of the future enter my head I do allow them to linger for a while, but I will always come back to the hear and now to help me through the run. (Remember I am only running for a few minutes so it does not take up big chunks of my day. Can you give up at most an hour 5 times a week).

Now I use that technique 5 times a week I find it so easy to bring myself into the moment when it all gets to much. As a result Foggy now has a much reduced impact on my life.

So if you are struggling with your mood, think about taking part in some exercise and employing mindfulness.

Don’t forget I am still offering free coaching sessions providing you contact be before 5pm on 1st August 2017

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Live in the moment and enjoy your journey through life


Many of you will have realised by now that I use this blog as some kind of therapy, to remind myself how to be to keep myself on an even keel. 

With that in mind I thought I would talk about the day I have had today.

It has been a good day, bordering on a lovely day. 

It started in the usual fashion with butterflies and that general feeling of inadequacy. That didn’t last however I was soon distracted by the sound of birdsong and a lovely bright summer morning. The kind of  morning that reminds you how wonderful the world is.

I arrived at work and started on writing a training session, something that I started last week. This early stage of writing a training session is my favourite part, this where I start bringing together all the current evidence and combine it with my existing working knowledge. I learn so much during this process about how much I know and don’t know. I always over write at this stage as I get so fascinated with the subject. This kept me engaged for the first hour. Then to stop me getting stuck I went to collect some paperwork from one of the wards. 

As a consequence of visiting a ward I ended up doing a coaching session with one of my coachees. Again I was completely engaged in what I was doing. We managed to spend an hour discussing her plans, and she gave me some very useful feedback. 

2 hours in and I am buoyant. I then meet a member of staff to sign off evidence for her competences, and then back to writing the teaching session. In the meantime I received an email from a colleague at the university giving me feedback from the students I taught on their last module. I was practically walking on air.

After lunch I must admit I got a little carried away on a particular part of the session and ended up doing a quick literature review. Now I have 15 articles to read through. They may not change the presentation dramatically but they are often good to provide more context when delivering the session, and provides a wider reading list.

When I got home the weather was gorgeous if not a little warm. I decided to go for my mile a day run before I relaxed too much and didn’t want to go.  Even though my knees and hips and ankles ached (my legs really object to carrying this fat lad around) it was worth it. I do keep telling myself it will get easier, I have to keep the faith. Anyhow just being out in this glorious weather was worth it the sunlight lit up the trees and the houses giving everything a majestic glow. 

Today has been so good, because I have concentrated on the moment and not over thought the past or the future. There is so much around us to embrace and enjoy. I don’t manage it everyday but when I open my eyes to what is happening and live it the moment I feel so much more fulfilled. 

Open your eyes to what is around you and start enjoying your journey through life.