Mindful Monkey.

Natural Sleep


Promoting Natural Sleep

Many would agree that the first two things that go when we are not at our best are our sense of humour and sleep! Sleep is a natural process, related to many biological rhythms (“Circadian” Rhythms).  Yet, many different issues can become a trigger for a disruption of such an important part of our lives.  Sleeping tablets are only useful as a short term measure to overcome a crisis perhaps. After that they become part of the problem. Over the counter medication too will soon become ineffective as our body becomes used to the substances. Alcohol and sleeping medication will also cause problems with the various stages of a natural sleep cycle.

Learning practical strategies for good sleep hygiene as well as psychological interventions can help people to overcome Insomnia. Once a person can learn to deal with the worry of not sleeping they are on the way to achieving something very important, that is to break a vicious circle of worry, tiredness and less sleep. Sometimes sleep problems have a physical cause (pain, obesity and breathing problems).  Deciding to talk to someone is the start towards solutions; because there are times we feel stuck and need someone else to help us make changes.


Mental Health & Women


An organisation called Platform 51 has revealed that 20% of women have suffered from a common mental health problem (compared to 12% of men). Further, they point out that almost 33% of women have taken anti-depressants.  Mental health is about more than just an absence of symptoms of illness. It is about quality of life, relationships and how far people can fulfil their potential. There is still a great deal of mystery surrounding mental health problems. Think of the terms “Mood”, “Self-esteem”, “Confidence” and “Stress”. These are all aspects open to change and development. A better understanding of what constitutes mental health and that there are effective psychological approaches available can help promote a sense of hope.  Hope is a good place to start.


California Sunshine

: Is there more to California than sunshine?

“Mindfulness Meditation” is a phrase that will bring up a series of pre-conceived ideas. What does it bring up for you? That many famous Hollywood stars have been using techniques that have been popular in the United States may or may not inspire you. Certainly mainstream psychology has only recently started to take it seriously. The Mental Health Foundation has taken up the cause and promoted the concept of Mindfulness. The American Archives of General Psychiatry has shown research showing it to be as effective as anti-depressants. Indeed, much of the research is showing it to be effective in terms of preventing relapse. Now NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) has approved it to be used for depression.  More and more research is pointing to the potential benefits of learning how to refocus our awareness can help to actually reshape our experience in any given moment.

Some people who have experienced the benefits of Mindfulness have, for the first time in their life, been able to manage anxiety without medication. It is not a quick fix and learning it requires an active approach towards practicing the skills. This enables the experience of Mindfulness to become a part of our busy life. Many feel it to be an approach that feels gentle, natural and respectful, developing a sense of compassion and change through calmness and developing emotional management skills. This may help whatever the weather.


Alcohol Awareness

Mixed messages on Alcohol Consumption

Here is question to consider; what happens to alcohol (and drug) use in a time of recession?

When I used to work for the community drug team in Leicester the focus was very much on illicit drugs, and alcohol problems appeared to have a more low key profile.  A recent article in the Guardian newspaper (“How Britain fell out of love with drugs”, G2 Thursday 24.2.11, by Leo Benedictus) points to a decline in the use of illicit drugs. At the same time a lot more attention is being placed on alcohol consumption in Britain. There was another article which was also widely reported in the press and BBC. A study published in the Lancet (21 February 2011) suggests that up to 250,000 more people than expected may die in England and Wales over the next 20 years due to harms done by alcohol. They point to a doubling of deaths from Liver disease since 1986. Also 1 in 4 people are drinking above what is considered safe levels.

Hence while there is some evidence that, overall, there may have been a slight decline in alcohol consumption, there are many who are drinking more than ever. One statistic above others caught my eye: There are 171 Countries around the world where alcohol consumption is lower than in Britain. How many people know the number of units of alcohol they consume in a week? It may be that fewer people are going to bars to drink, but what about the cheap availability of alcohol in shops that leads to drinking at home? Similarly, harms from problematic drug use are very much with us.

While the politicians and academics discuss the availability and minimum costs of alcohol, much can be done by workers in a variety of settings to help people who may be drinking in a hazardous or harmful way. Anyone working in the addictions field will know that just telling people how something is not good for them does not seem particularly effective. Effective training for staff can highlight how there is far more to alcohol problems than dependant drinking or alcoholism. Good information and an effective way of putting across that information can make a real difference. Ideas borrowed from the field of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness and Motivational Interviewing can provide practical skills. There is also good evidence that brief interventions can help people. I am providing training on Alcohol Awareness in Nottingham for those who may be interested in finding out more.

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