How to get out of your head
At times we can become overwhelmed by an incredible number of thoughts, ideas and conflicts going on in our minds.>
Should I do this? Should I do that? How will I do this if this person hasn’t done that? I don’t have time, I’m not good enough, I’m so stressed!!!
How do you take a step back and make it all stop?
Our minds are amazing things. Studies have shown that we have between 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day, or between 35 and 48 thoughts per minute. When a majority of these thoughts are negative, many of us can find ourselves feeling trapped in an unhealthy frame of mind.
Here are some ways to help you get out of your head
Activities and exercise
You may recall a time when you were swimming laps, gliding through the water, gasping for your next breath and feeling your leg muscles working to kick you forward. When you next checked the clock you noticed that way more time had passed than what you thought. This is because you were lost in the moment and completely present in what you were doing. You don’t have to be into swimming for this to happen; other forms of exercise and activity like dancing, surfing, or playing team sports can all distract you from overthinking and worrying and help you to see the world with a clearer head.
Surround yourself with grounded, relaxed and positive people
You may have some people in your life who make you feel calm and collected when you’re around them. Spend more time with these people! If you hang around with people who are also in an unclear mental space, you will find that you’re both adding to a big pile of complicated and negative thoughts. Hang out with someone who is in a great place in their lives and instead of getting jealous, try to soak up some their positivity!
Have a morning routine
Try and roll out on the right side of the bed. If you wake up and notice negative thoughts or you haven’t slept well due to a busy mind, try these techniques to let them go before you begin the day ahead:
- Journal and write your stream of consciousness
- Play uplifting music and dance until you feel better
- Exercise and sweat it out
- Listen to a guided meditation on positivity, gratitude or clarity
If you start feeling a little bit of cabin fever, have a shower, get dressed and just get outdoors. Breathe in the fresh air, go for a walk, or read the paper at a cafe; sometimes just leaving the house can do you good. If you are up for it, spend a day or a weekend in nature. The Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 2007 found that “students sent into the forest for two nights had lower levels of cortisol — a hormone often used as a marker for stress — than those who spent that time in the city.”
Get stuck into a task that you love, whether that be drawing, painting or creating something with your hands like woodwork, pottery or shaping a surf board. Put on some of your favourite music to suit your mood and work through a bit of art therapy. Gardening and tending to plants can be a lovely tool to take your mind off things too, or simply tidying up and having a good old sort out.
Mindfulness and meditation
We hear about mindfulness time and time again, but what does it really mean and how do we best incorporate it into our lives? There are alternatives to meditation that help us relax and slow our constant thoughts and worries. THese include doing something repetitive with our hands, adult colouring in books, and gentle moving mediations like Yoga or Tai Chi. Or, just take a slow walk where you take in everything around you and literally stop to smell the flowers.
Want to help support our charity and spread our message further? You can represent us in your very own Hello Sunday Morning shirt, singlet or hoodie! Purchase our apparel from hellosundaymorning.org/store
My first AA meeting – the value of sharing
I sat in on an open AA meeting one Wednesday afternoon.
I work in health promotion and wanted to experience for myself what an AA meeting is really like. I wanted to question my assumptions from popular culture and stigma.
It was one of those beautiful blue days where you cannot spot a cloud in the sky. A day where the last place you want to be is in the middle of a big city. The air was filled with humidity and my clothes were sticking to me, almost in an irritating way.
The sliding doors to the community meeting room were open. The fans were on, gently blowing the posters scattered about the walls. Posters for the 12 Steps, yoga and meditation retreats, domestic violence support services and homeless shelters. These were pinned up like offerings of hope to those who previously saw themselves as hopeless. A large notice board in the middle of the sliding doors offered privacy from the street.
There were about twenty people at the meeting. Everyone seated facing the front where the person who ran the meeting and a few sponsors sat. What struck me at first was the diversity of the group. A young woman with her toddler sat opposite me. The child spluttered throughout the meeting with a chesty cough and wriggled around on her big plastic chair.
An elderly lady sat next to me and smiled warmly when we caught a glance. There was a mix of male and female, young and old. Some had been coming to AA meetings for years, others just a few months. The people in the room where just like you and I. Some with great families and careers, others with no family left and a life that has not been so kind to them.
AA meetings are not just about remaining anonymous
They are also about being present for those in the group and the community around you.
The first man to share was sitting across from me. He was wearing a colourful Hawaiian shirt. But the expression on his face did not suggest that his life had been a holiday. The man opened his reflections by introducing himself. “Hi, my name is Dave* and I am an alcoholic”. The first step of the 12 Steps at an AA meeting involves admitting to yourself that you have no power over your ‘disease’. You hand over your vulnerability to a higher power and admit defeat.
The meeting was on a chapter in the book that everyone was to discuss, around the theme of not being too hard on yourself. Dave began by explaining his daily struggle with crippling anxiety. He shared with us how he hates himself for getting into this state of mind. How he panics when he cannot see a solution or an out to how he is feeling. This destructive cycle means Dave cannot hold down a stable job and ends up screwing up every job interview he has had, as he talks himself down and focuses on everything that is wrong with him and the company and the people holding the job interview.
“A community that cares”
“I suffered from feelings of guilt and loneliness as a result of my alcoholism. Drinking was causing a serious problem when my children came home to find me unconscious. I joined Alcoholics Anonymous to learn how to control my drinking and restore balance to my life. Whilst the program was enlightening, it wasn’t as effective as I had hoped for.
“I was stuck in a vicious cycle of binge drinking, blacking out, and losing my memory. One of my biggest fears was that I would fail, but it’s not a test. It’s just about getting you to think about drinking. Meeting other members and getting support has been invaluable.
Sharing is caring
When Dave started to choke up while telling his story with tears running down his cheeks. I looked around the room. The compassion on the face of each and every person in that room was obvious. It was as if invisible hands was reaching out to hold onto Dave. To squeeze his hand and tell him that that they are there for him. When others began to share their reflections on the reading listeners would often nod their head to themselves or clap in a gesture of agreement and understanding. The speaker could take as long as they wanted and there was no judgment from anywhere in this space. This unfortunately is a special treat for many people going through recovery from an alcohol or drug dependency.
Every person who shared their triumphs and their rock bottoms on that day were open and vulnerable. But I didn’t leave the meeting feeling hopeless for the members. Everyone finished their ‘sharing’ on a positive thought. Such as:
“But I know I’ll be okay, because I didn’t reach for the bottle this time.”
Or, “I’m slowly seeing that I need to deal with this struggle with meditation and these meetings and staying away from those who are making this hard for me.”
You are probably wondering what I shared at my first AA meeting
When it came time for my turn to speak I simply said that I wouldn’t be sharing today and that was more than okay. There was no pressure to tell your story. There was no discrimination from the group because you weren’t comfortable opening up. For this I felt truly honored to be able to listen to these incredible stories of strength.
It’s so easy to brush off a comment about how people who are alcohol dependant should just “stop” drinking or using drugs, and their lives will turn around. The men and women in this meeting drank as a therapy and an escape from other underlying issues. Many stories were complex and emotionally scarring that we can only begin to comprehend. They turned to alcohol because for some reason they were not able to get the help they needed early enough. That is what saddened me the most as I stepped out of the room that afternoon.
Support is imperative for recovery, and support comes from community. Unfortunately with the stigma present in our society and our current healthcare system around people who abuse these substances, we do not provide the people who need it most with a community that they deserve.
What other support is available for people?
For those who feel that something like an AA meeting is too confronting to share their deepest fears and darkest experiences with complete strangers, or people who live in remote areas, or have kids and responsibilities that keep them from finding the time to attending these meetings as often as they need, a physical meeting may not be suitable.
Daybreak is an alcohol support group app created from years of experience by the Hello Sunday Morning team. It is a great alternative that provides an anonymous space, with a supportive community of people going through different stages of their own journey to recovery.
– Sober support group
I saw more of Sydney in the last few months than I did in my first year living here
I told myself to visit somewhere I’d never been before, once every week.
It was pretty clichéd of me: the twenty-something-year-old Kiwi girl who spontaneously moved to Australia for six months to gain work experience and explore a new city, only to end up discovering how great the pay was, finding a full-time job, meeting an Aussie boy to settle down with, and, boom! A year and a half goes by.
It’s funny, when you’re halfway between a tourist and a resident in a new country, it becomes very easy to postpone adventuring and getting out to explore new places. “Ooh, I HAVE to visit that place! Maybe next weekend after I hand out all these resumes…,” or, “Wow, that place looks stunning! I’d love to go when I make a couple of new friends here to go with.”
After my first year in Sydney, it would seem I had it all figured out. I had a car, a handful of new friends, a boyfriend, a full time job in the industry I had actually studied for, and a nice place to live. What more could you want?! It wasn’t until my friends from back home started to visit and ask me where to go that I realised I really hadn’t seen all that much of Sydney. I could show you the Opera House or my local cafe? Where did the time go? I thought I came here for an adventure! I found that my local friends weren’t as interested in adventures, since they grew up here, and when I did manage to tie down some plan, people had to cancel for one reason or another.
That’s when I decided to make a deal with myself to visit somewhere I’d never seen before, once every week. I continued to invite friends but, ultimately, it became important for me to learn to love my own company, and make sure I had no excuse to get me out of it.
Before I knew it, I could draw a map of interesting places and walks around Sydney’s hidden gems of nature. Every week I felt excited for what my next adventure might be, and I eliminated any stress or worries around organising friends because I knew I’d be doing it, no matter what.
The great thing about this goal was that it didn’t matter if I had a whole day to spare for a trip to the Blue Mountains, or if I was so busy that I only had time to sit under a tree and do some work at a park I had never been to before by the harbour. To me, everything counted – as long as I hadn’t seen it before. Instead of going to places I felt comfortable in, I enjoyed the aspect of consciously choosing somewhere new.
I have had so many people comment on how great this idea sounds, and even claim to ‘want to be more like me’ with my approach to seeing new things. So, why do people find it so hard to commit to such a goal? From my personal experience, getting into the routine of a new goal or habit is 80% making the first move, and 20% continuing it. Once you get over that first hump, the rest of the ride is easy. You can start by skipping your usual coffee stop and going around the corner to a new place, plan your weekends ahead by looking up some local walks, or ask friends for recommendations.
If you’re suddenly feeling like you’re stuck in a bit of a week-to-week routine I can wholeheartedly suggest you give this a go, even if it’s just simple at first. Because, for me, I gained so much more than I thought I would. This experiment slowly became less about making sure I finally saw Sydney for what it was, and more about learning to appreciate the simple things, enjoy time by myself, and see the beauty in what was surrounding me the entire time.
Have you got a list of things you’d like to try? If you want to share an experience with us that inspires others to start doing the things they have always wanted to do, we would love to hear about it! Email your story with photos (if you have them) to email@example.com
I danced sober in the dark on a Monday night with 100 other people
We have turned July into our dancing month, where we will explore different forms of creative expression to music and encourage you to do the same, as dancing can provide an outlet for a lot of built up baggage. Hello Sunday Morning is inviting you to come along on our journey to experiment with the boogie and increase your groove.
It was sweaty, it was loud, it was electric, and the best part of all? It was Monday night.
We walked into a completely pitch-black room; the walls and floor were vibrating with beats from the speakers and DJ in the corner. When our eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, dimly lit by a few community hall EXIT signs, we were just able to make out the silhouettes of the dancers all around us.
For the next hour, we found ourselves slowly losing all inhibitions and moving parts of our bodies that have not moved for a long time. Hips were swinging, butts were bouncing and clapping, laughter and yahoos were made out over the blasting of music from old school swing music to classic ’90s hits from Destiny’s Child.
What is this magical dance universe, you may ask?
No Lights No Lycra started in Australia and has grown to provide this community experience in countries all over the world. Check out your area to find your nearest NLNL:
“The dance night grew through word of mouth and within a few months the hall was full of people who shared the same yearning for a dimly lit space to dance as freely as they do in their living rooms.”
Who says you need alcohol to dance?
The darkness at No Lights No Lycra helps you forget about that self-consciousness that stops most of us from expressing ourselves fully. Naturally, you may feel a little tense at the start as we are so used to worrying what other people might think of us. But give it 10 minutes and you’ll notice the endorphins crawling over your skin and words belting out of your mouth as you sing along and crawl out of your protective social shell to move in ways you never knew you could.
There’s no other feeling like it, a smile was glued on my face, a stitch prevalent in my rib cage and my legs ached until the next day.
Would I do it again? Absolutely.
Would I recommend to a friend? Absolutely.
Do I think dancing will cure the world? One Monday night at a time.
Have you got a list of things you’d like to try? If you want to share an experience with us that inspires others to start doing the things they have always wanted to do, we would love to hear about it! Email your story with photos (if you have them) to firstname.lastname@example.org
I stood at the front of a room and danced the Brazilian Samba
Hello Sunday Morning’s Experiments Challenge is all about trying something different, something you have never done or have always wanted to do. For July, our month of dancing, we sent our marketing intern Cara to take on the Brazilian Samba …I haven’t taken a dance class since I was about seven years old, aside from one failed attempt to learn Salsa last year. Maybe the Samba will be easier, I thought, after watching a two-minute video clip on YouTube. My roommates and I showed up to the dance studio in tee shirts and athletic leggings with water bottles in hand. We were prepared to sweat. The studio was on the upper level of a brick building decorated with an abstract mural of bright yellow, blue, and pink. The inside was just as eye-catching: banners of multicoloured flags hung from the ceiling, posters covered the walls, and hula hoops and baskets of feathers lined the hallways. Before our Brazilian Samba class started, we had a look around the studio. In one of the rooms, women wearing beaded scarves around their waists were practising belly dancing. I wondered if anyone in our class would be wearing pieces of the extravagant feathered Samba costumes I had seen in the YouTube clip. When we entered the wood-floored dance studio where our lesson was to be held, everyone else was wearing workout clothes sans carnivalesque embellishments. Phew. People started stretching, so I put my leg on a nearby ballet barre (with some difficulty) in an attempt to appear as though I knew what I was doing. Our dance teacher, an energetic Brazilian woman, burst into the room and immediately turned on the stereo. She instructed us to walk around and “feel the music.” So fifteen of us gathered in a circle and sashayed around the room. We were told to move our arms in small circles at first, then back and forth across our bodies. When our warm-up was over, we spread out across the room, facing the mirrored wall at the front. The first move we learned was a basic footwork pattern that involved three steps. This won’t be so hard, I thought. From my spot in the back corner of the room, I tried to follow the instructor’s movements by staring at her feet, then at mine. I was comfortable at my spot in the back of the room, where I could watch everyone’s feet in front of me. The instructor wasn’t satisfied with our feelings of ease in our places. She called out one woman from the back and requested that she move to the front of the room. Then, she had me move to the front row as well. To be perfectly honest, I panicked a bit. I was able to use the mirror to follow along with the rest of the class, and I finally got the hang of it after everyone else had already seemed to master the steps. Then, we were instructed to combine arm motions and hip movements with the footwork. I started looking around the room to see if I could learn the moves by watching my classmates. By the end of the class, I still couldn’t figure out how to control my arms while paying attention to the fast-paced footwork, given my lack of coordination. I’ll definitely need to return to the studio to give the Brazilian Samba another try, but this time I’ll be finding a spot right in the middle.
Have you got a list of things you’d like to try? If you want to share an experience with us that inspires others to start doing the things they have always wanted to do, we would love to hear about it! Email your story with photos (if you have them) to email@example.com
Independence Day is all about community
The Fourth of JulyToday marks the most significant holiday for the United States. It was the day the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, formally declaring America’s independence from Britain. Some people refer to the holiday as ‘America’s birthday,’ and it’s celebrated like an enormous birthday bash every year. The Fourth of July is unlike other holidays where families gather and celebrate at home – it’s a day where entire towns and communities come together to take part in the festivities. Independence Day falls at the warmest time of year in the U.S. It’s summer, school is out, banks and government offices are closed for the day, and most businesses shut down. The day begins, for many, with preparations for afternoon barbecues or picnics. Some people bake festive cookies and cakes decorated with white icing and topped with candy or berries arranged into an American flag. Families take their kids to the centre of town for local parades, where everyone is dressed in red, white, and blue, from their hair accessories all the way down to their shoes. You’ll most likely run into a few of your neighbours at the parade, and if not, you’ll certainly see them later at the fireworks display. For kids especially, the rest of the day is spent anxiously waiting for fireworks. Fireworks displays are put on by all major cities and most small towns, and the community gathers in a park or other public spaces to watch. Anyone who wants to stake out a good spot will get there hours before the sun sets. They’ll bring lawn chairs, picnic blankets, tons of food, and even portable barbecue grills. Parents can enjoy themselves for a few hours while their kids go and play with their classmates, who they’re bound to run into. The evening ends with everyone twirling sparklers in the air before settling onto blankets on the grass to watch together. We’re inspired by the way local communities come together on the Fourth of July to spend time with family, friends, and those living around them. On a day like today, there’s nothing more important to independence than a community.
How childhood temperament can predict heavy drinking
An edited excerpt from Woman of Substances: A Journey into Addiction and Treatment by Hello Sunday Morning supporter, Jenny Valentish.
1982. The UK. The Falklands War erupted. The lowest temperature on record was captured by a lonely weather station in east Scotland, at -27.2°C. Unemployment exceeded three million, the highest since the 1930s. The IRA bombed Hyde Park and Regents Park, killing eight and wounding forty-seven. Thatcher’s Tories were top of the opinion polls. In every kid’s Christmas stocking there was a copy of When the Wind Blows, depicting a nuclear attack on the UK by the Soviet Union. I was seven.
I don’t want to lose your sense of intrigue straight off the bat, but I was a sickly child, matted with eczema and, later, permanently trailing a hankie. The umbilical cord had noosed around my neck upon my grand entrance, rendering me mute. I brought with me a special delivery of postnatal depression and was soon registered as ‘failure to thrive’.
Around our house they called me the Grizzler. My super-powers included a sixth sense for the acutely unfair, and internal combustions at perceived slights. My parents also bandied around ‘sulking’, or ‘sulking again’, but those words didn’t do it justice. When wronged, their youngest child was a kamikaze pilot in a nosedive, unwilling or unable to pull up. Empires should collapse.
‘It’s not the end of the world!’ Mum would exclaim, in an ascending tone. Dad’s favoured description of Mum was ‘wittering’. Mum’s nickname for Dad was ‘Eeyore’. We all did the Myer Briggs personality test one time and came out as introverts with tempers rising. Our default setting was: ‘Expect nothing and be pleasantly surprised.’ Addendum: ‘Any pleasant surprise will be a massive fluke and should be dismissed as such.’
What I’m describing here is temperament. Temperament is observable from birth, and it’s the foundation upon which personality is built. The dim light in which I view 1982 gives some insight into mine.
There’s an episode of the 2012 ABC documentary Life at Seven called ‘Tackling Temperament’. The Australian children it follows have been the subjects of a longitudinal study since birth, and now it’s time to test their response to frustration with ‘The Painting Experiment’.
In groups of three, the children in the documentary are given the task of painting a picture of flowers. Midway through they’re distracted by a researcher, who calls them over to inspect the real floral arrangement more closely. While their backs are turned, one girl – who’s in on the trick – scribbles on their artwork, then slips back to her own easel.
Initially, each child is dismayed to discover their ruined painting – and they’re suspicious, of course.
Child 1 is subdued. She says she knows the other girl did it, but she keeps going with her painting regardless. By the time she skips out of the room, the insult is forgotten.
Child 2 finds another blank page beneath the first and, pleased with his own ingenuity, starts over from scratch.
Child 3 wants to get to the bottom of it, but eventually her desire to continue wins out. ‘I know,’ she decides, ‘I could colour the background in.’
Child 4 is angry. She stamps her foot. ‘That just can’t happen,’ she says. The researcher leans in: so what should Child 4 do? ‘I don’t know,’ she whimpers. Does she have an idea? ‘No.’ She rejects the suggestion of turning over the paper to the clean side, claiming that won’t work.
‘How did it happen?’ Child 4 repeats, aghast. Eventually she’s persuaded to start over, but the sense of injustice lingers.
Perhaps Child 4 adopted a permanent explanation for this ruined-painting scenario. This is a mindset described by psychologist Martin Seligman in his book The Optimistic Child. A positive thinker will regard a setback as being temporary: ‘This picture has been ruined but at least I had only just started.’ A pessimistic child will tell themselves a story with finality to it: ‘This is hopeless. Just my luck. This happens every time. People always have it in for me.’
This type will also have what’s called an external locus of control: the belief that they are a passive victim of their circumstances, rather than the architect of their own destiny. Every time a reasonable solution is offered, they’ll play the ‘yes, but’ game, preferring to nurse that sense of unfairness like Gollum and his ring.
Something might go really well yet by the end of the day it’s catastrophised, remembered as an unmitigated disaster. They might similarly revise their entire childhood, levelling out all experiences to the baseline of the worst. In my memory, for instance, my childhood is like Nordic noir: everyone’s withdrawn and secretive, the sky is overcast, and people drift about wearing thick woollen jumpers (Dad never turned on the central heating). At any moment someone’s liable to walk out into a snowdrift and never return.
That’s the past. As for the future – which in Child 4’s case is the option of turning over a sheet of paper and starting anew – they’re harbingers of doom.
In defence of Child 4, certainly not all pessimistic or reactive children will grow up wanting to funnel the world up one nostril. There are plenty of coping techniques that, with a bit of encouragement, an individual can employ to regulate their moods.
The ruined paintings of the Life at Seven kids were a minor setback. In the case of experiencing childhood trauma, having low resilience – like Child 4 – can be a huge risk factor for adult anxiety, depression and problematic substance use.
One of the most thorough studies of childhood personality began in Melbourne in 1983 and is ongoing. The psychologists and paediatricians behind the Australian Temperament Project have been following the children of 2443 Victorian families. They’ve found that the features of temperament most likely to have long-term influence are persistence, flexibility and reactivity/emotionality, with the biggest predictor of adult behaviour being self-regulation.
Someone with poor self-regulation has little capacity to control their reactions, which include physiological responses, such as a churning stomach when something is upsetting, but also their interpersonal attitudes. Take me. I was one of those kids who, if a friend came over to play and a row started, would rather endure an hour of anvil-heavy, atom-buzzing silence until their mother arrived to take them away, than try to rectify the situation. Not much has changed. Fast-forward thirty years and there I am necking two beta-blockers before resigning from a job, in order to firmly get my points across without hurling a stapler or letting loose a spittled string of expletives.
So why do some people fail at self-regulation?
In part it’s hereditary, but it’s also down to the home environment. When a child’s stress-response systems are activated – which means an increased heart rate, rise in blood pressure and release of stress hormones – some calm intervention by a caregiver can bring these responses back down to baseline. If these skills are not observed and learned, the habit of self-regulation will not be routed into the neural pathways. Failure to learn might be through parental neglect or through watching parents catastrophise minor issues.
Conversely, pandering to a child’s every whim can mean they’ll never experience disappointment and how to adapt to it. Increasingly, drug and alcohol counsellors are seeing clients in their thirties and forties who are living back at home with enabling parents who never learned to tell them ‘no’.
The danger in both cases is that defeat can become comforting. There’s a familiar cycle of disappointment and then – if you grow up to coddle yourself with drugs and alcohol – self-soothing. In time, defeat becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Things are not for the likes of you. Something simply cannot be done. There is no point.
In summary, what we know to be high-risk factors for problematic substance use include low resilience, poor self-regulation, low self-efficacy and reactivity.
This is why it’s vital for any adult addressing their alcohol or drug use to specifically address their resilience and self-regulation, perhaps through counselling methods, such as CBT. Turn it into a game, if necessary: how quickly can I laugh off that slight? How many good things happened to me today before that wrong turn into shit-town? What advantage can I milk from this unexpected situation? What have I learned? Our temperament may be acquired through our genes, but our attributes are gained through our own free will.
The five best ways to talk to mum about her drinking
We spoke to Talitha Cummins about stigma and the best approaches to opening up a conversation
“Such is the strength of denial when it comes to drinking … that a child talking to their parent may not even hit home.” — Talitha Cummins
Generally, mums are known to talk a lot. They call for a chat about anything: to tell you a trivial incident that happened at the shops; to remind you to pay your health insurance bill; or pester you to take back a stored box of clothes in your old room. But because mums are so used to helping others and putting themselves last, it can be hard to turn it around and open up a conversation with mum about how she may be drinking.
At Hello Sunday Morning, we refer to the mums in the Daybreak communityas ‘supermums’; they’re superheroes in our eyes. But the thing is, that’s a pretty high standard to live up to, and it can come with a lot of pressure. So far, Hello Sunday Morning has supported 80,000 women on their journey to change their relationship with alcohol. Our statistics show 56 per cent of female members on Daybreak have children, and of those mothers, 7.4 per cent have over six drinks daily or almost daily.
We spoke with mother, Australian journalist and Hello Sunday Morning ambassador, Talitha Cummins, about why there is a stigma attached to mums who drink and why it’s so hard for mothers to accept that they may need help to change their relationship with alcohol:
“We’re very good at drinking but we’re not very good at acknowledging the problems that come with it. There’s a tendency for people to sweep this issue under the mat because it’s a little bit too confronting. Research shows that women in their late 30s and early 40s have caught up to men on the drinking front for a number of reasons, like women entering the workforce and equality. I also think there’s an extra layer of stress on women who do a lot of the work looking after the children as well as working full time and that adds another layer of pressure. Alcohol is used to relieve that pressure. Too much of relying on that to relieve the pressure creates a problem.”
Talitha described herself as the definition of a high-functioning drinker, a category that we find often gets overlooked by GPs and social groups because they break the traditional stereotypes of alcohol dependency: a bedraggled man carrying a paper bag with hard liquor around the street.
“I would get up in the morning and go for a run no matter how much I’d had the night before. If I could get up and go for that run and turn up to my hair and makeup and present well, than I thought the alcohol wasn’t having an effect on me. I’d still be able to work all day and it wasn’t until I got home that night that I’d start drinking again. So on the face of it, I was still doing my job, perhaps not to the best of my ability, but it wasn’t a problem until it was. Things became unmanageable for me.”
Talitha thought she was the only one who knew that her drinking was getting out of hand. It took an intervention from her Chief Of Staff at work who sat her down and asked her if she was okay, for her to allow herself to accept the situation.
“I think I was just at the right point and I said ‘no’ and I just crumbled. I was ready for someone to reach out and say anything to me because I was just so sick and tired of going through this whole thing of drinking, feeling shame and guilt and drinking to make myself feel better.”
Talitha says it is so difficult to talk to a parent about their drinking because in a lot of instances, they won’t accept they have an issue themselves.
“I spoke to a parent this week whose daughter won’t speak to them because of their drinking. But this person is still in complete denial about the problem and wants to stop drinking, but not even being told by their child that there’s an issue makes them see that they need help.”
So, how do you begin the conversation with your mum about her relationship with alcohol?
There are many ways you could approach the topic, and the best for you may vary depending on your relationship with your mum. Talitha recommends a loving approach.
“I know there can be a lot of fall out from things that may have happened with the parents drinking, but approaching lovingly from a good place and making sure they understand that you’re there to support them is a good start to then let them know that you also think they need to seek help.”
You could also try opening up yourself and sharing something about your experience, such as:
“I have been thinking a lot about my relationship to alcohol lately. I have realised that it has been really valuable for me to reflect on it.”
Saying something personal demonstrates to the other person that you are comfortable (or maybe uncomfortable, but open to) being vulnerable around them.
In her TED talk, Dr. Brene Brown discusses the power of vulnerability. It is exceptionally difficult to let yourself be vulnerable in front of others.
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen,” says Dr. Brown. Letting ourselves be vulnerable.
“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” Which, many have argued, is sort of the point of everything. We are wired to connect to other people, it’s one of the things that has enabled humans to be so successful as a species and it is a powerful tool for the healing process.
But what if mum doesn’t see an issue and gets defensive?
It may be a good idea to be prepared for this reaction, as drinking carries with it a lot of negative stigma from our society and is linked with feelings such as shame and guilt. Which is ironic, as the social pressure and expectation to drink alcohol is massive.
Talitha points out that confrontation is often avoided because of the expectations that you should be able to handle your drinking.
“None of my friends actually confronted me about it, despite them seeing some of the things that I was doing. It’s awkward not only for the person who is drinking, but for the friends as well; they don’t know what to say, so there’s this embarrassment around it on both sides.”
People can become enraged at a suggestion that they may be drinking too much and deny that they need help. You may find a breakthrough and the person will acknowledge their drinking, but they may deny addressing it, saying something like: “I can stop anytime I want to” or, “Everyone drinks to unwind sometimes.”
A Washington Post article written by Sara Amato, shares her story of struggle when confronting her mum about her relationship with alcohol and the positive opportunity she got out of the experience.
“Over the years, I tried to talk with her about her alcoholism, but she never wanted to hear it. It forced me to come to terms with the fact I couldn’t change her and that it didn’t need to weigh me down. She refused to recognise she had a problem and actively denied it whenever I brought it up. I could pour her wine out, but she’d still find ways to drink. If she wasn’t willing to change then it couldn’t be my problem anymore.
Her drinking forced me to be more cautious. It wasn’t until after college that I started drinking socially. I thought that if I drank anything, I would turn into her. But the more she denied she had a problem, the more it dawned on me that I wasn’t her. I had developed more self-awareness and control than she had ever shown me. But that realisation didn’t happen overnight. There was never any therapy sessions or group programs, there was only time. Most importantly, I realised that talking about these issues and getting help isn’t shameful, because [drinking] isn’t a one-person [issue]: It affects everyone. I know that now at 27, but when I was 16? No, I was really stubborn. It took me a long time to realise that letting people in doesn’t make you weak. And you should never feel alone when dealing with a loved one’s addiction. Because you’re not.”
Here are a few tips to help you take the blame off yourself
Firstly, you need to acknowledge the issue. You may be in denial to protect your parent or hide the issue. Admitting that your parent needs support, even if they won’t, is the first step in taking control.
Don’t blame yourself and be aware of your emotions. Accepting and acknowledging helps you put things in perspective. Remind yourself that you are not responsible for your parents drinking too much and that you cannot cause it or stop it, only they can. Recognising how a parent’s drinking makes you feel can help you from burying your feelings and pretending that everything’s fine.
Learn healthy coping strategies. When we grow up around people who turn to alcohol or other unhealthy ways of dealing with problems, they become our example. It may be a good idea to find some role models who can help you learn healthy coping mechanisms and ways of making good decisions.
Find support. Talk to people that may have gone through a similar thing and find support through Hello Sunday Morning or other support programs.
“To people out there who are in the midst of a drinking issue, life can get better. I was in such a low place too and I never thought that I would find the allusive happiness. But with a lot of hard work, you can get there. There is hope.” — Talitha Cummins
Hello Sunday Morning’s relationship with alcohol
So, I spoke with some of the team about their diverse relationships with alcohol …
Chris Raine, Founder and CEO“People assume that I don’t drink at all. Hello Sunday Morning’s mission is to support people change their own relationship with alcohol, without being prescriptive of how a person should drink. Our mission isn’t to get people to quit alcohol – it is simply to help people get to wherever they want their relationship with alcohol to be. Everyone has their own relationship with alcohol. For some people, it is better that there isn’t one at all. We respect that. For others, it is, and should always be, a continual work in progress. “I do sometimes drink. Is my relationship with alcohol perfect? 90% of the time I’m really happy with my relationship with alcohol. 10% of the time, I know that it could be better. For me, it isn’t really about how much I drink but about why I am drinking. When I get stressed or feel lonely, I know I want to drink more. This is what I love about working at Hello Sunday Morning, we have so many great people in our team that I can learn from in how to change the way I approach this stress or loneliness so that I can get that 10% lower and lower with every experiment.”
Jamie Moore, General Manager“As the GM of Hello Sunday Morning, one of the guiltiest moments is when you wake up with a hangover. It makes you feel like a fraud. But I’ve realised over the years that I only feel that way if I drank for the wrong reasons. Was I tired, stressed, anxious? If I drank for one of these reasons the guilt would build. But if I drank for another reason, spending time with an old mate, trying out some new beers, an event I was really looking forward to … the guilt wasn’t there. It made me realise there’s nothing wrong with drinking, what’s important is making sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. It’s making sure that drinking was a conscious decision, not an unconscious reaction.”
Ron Sandoval, Product DeveloperWhen asking Ron what his relationship with alcohol is like, he replies, “Great, I have a beer right now.” I check his desk and it turns out he really does have an open Coopers. “And it’s Monday, so there is no problem …”
Lauren Waddell, Executive Assistant“My relationship with alcohol is very boring. I enjoy a drink at dinner maybe once a fortnight, whether that’s a spiced rum or a margarita, my limit would be two max. I don’t think I’ve had more than two drinks for over four years. “When I was 19 or 20 I’d go out every few weeks and have a max of five drinks over the night, but I’d always get alcohol poisoning and severe hangovers regardless. I would have two UDL’s at pre-drinks and I was good for the night. “To be honest, I only like the taste of spiced rum. So at functions and weddings where they only have wine, beer, and champagne, they don’t offer what I enjoy drinking so I’ll just drink water.”
Grace Enright Burns, Marketing Officer“Alcohol and I were pretty tight. We had a passionate love/hate relationship. A toxic one that consisted of a cycle that went something like this: me waking up wanting to spew on myself, shutting out the world around me and wishing the day would just end so I could wake up the next morning and be my usual, bubbly self, and then going out the next weekend, downing a few bottles of whatever cost under $7.50 and doing it all over again. “I just kind of got over it. I loved getting up for an early surf in the morning, hanging with my family and friends, practicing yoga, being silly and feeling good, so I didn’t want to miss out on that. “The process of cutting back on my drinking didn’t just happen overnight. I came up with a rule with my dad who also often gets carried away on the booze. It’s called the ‘two or four rule’. I aim to have two drinks if I’m just having a quiet night or a dinner with friends, and four drinks when I’m going out for a late one, at a festival, a party or a celebration. So far I’ve been great sticking to it, but I am a sucker for a nice cocktail and the way alcohol makes me feel tingly, so I can over do it sometimes. Alcohol and I are now pretty good friends, not best friends but a friend who you’ll hang out with now and again and it will be a nice time for both of you. And if it’s not, you might not message them for a while until you happen to bump into them again.”
Ashley Boyd, Brand Designer“I was never a big drinker, but obviously when you turn 18 it’s all exciting and new and I would still drink at lots of parties but never enough to black out. I just didn’t like feeling like shit, but I had a few hungover days and when I went through breakups and hard times I would definitely drink more. “Since working for Hello Sunday Morning and discovering the reasons why I drink, I started to think to myself, ‘What am I doing tomorrow? Do I really want to be hungover?’ Usually, the answer is no. I’ll definitely have a drink with the girls after work but I’m never really drinking multiple drinks in one session. I’m quite happy with that.”
Zane Pocock, Head of MarketingReminiscing on his uni days, Zane sits back and mentions that he used to lead from the front, even winning the occasional competition. “I now don’t drink. When I first moved to Sydney with my wife, we needed to save money. We decided one of the easiest ways to cut back on how much we spent was by stopping drinking for a bit while we got settled. But we ended up realising that it was a really positive experience and now it’s a couple of years later and I haven’t had a drink again. “It’s strange because it becomes some sort of identity thing. I definitely identify at the moment as a ‘non-drinker’. My relationship with alcohol previously was pretty full on, but I didn’t feel like I had to change it, I just decided that I get zero value from it and don’t want it in my life anymore.”
How to meditate for a clear mind
Meditation has been around for thousands of years and has proven psychological, physiological and spiritual benefits. It’s a difficult task to master, but if you can somehow introduce a regular meditative practice into your daily life, you will soon begin to notice positive changes.
Who’s not up for some positive change once in a while?
Historically, meditation was practised by saints and sages to bring about the joyful state of self-realisation; a state of consciousness where a person is free from worries and anxieties and is completely present in the moment. Meditation can lead you to become more mindful and clear-headed, gaining a greater understanding of life and purpose.
If your mood (anxious, stressed, tired) tends to be the trigger for drinking, try swapping the habit of pouring a drink with sitting down and meditating for just five minutes. Meditation resets your mind so you can move through the triggers, feelings and thoughts and get onto a more productive and healthy action like cooking dinner or getting organised for the next day.
Try this simple practice of controlled breathing from our in-house clinical psychologists to help set you up for your meditation. Read through steps 1-5 and then give it a try.
- Get comfortable Sit in a comfortable position, as comfortable as you can get. Sit up straight and relax your shoulders and muscles.
- Deep breath in Take a deep breath in through your nose. Count “one, two”.
- Slow breath out Breathe out through your mouth, pucker your lips (as though you are about to whistle) and breathe out for twice as long as you breathe in. Count “one, two, three, four”. Don’t hold your breath between breathing in and out, aim to keep your breath flowing smoothly.
- Deep breathing Check you are using your diaphragm by placing your hand on your stomach. If you are using your diaphragm you should feel your stomach move out as you breathe in and move in as you breathe out. This helps to ensure you aren’t taking shallow breaths. Remember to keep your breaths deep, not shallow or big.
- Eyes Closed
Now close your eye and continue breathing this way until you feel relaxed.
What are the benefits of meditating?
Stress: When stress overwhelms you, it can have serious health implications including anxiety, depression and even cardiovascular disease. Meditation activates the body’s natural relaxation response and not only calms the mind, allowing you to relax and the stress to gently leave the mind and body, it also it provides a deeper knowledge and understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions.
Anxiety: The purpose of meditation isn’t to get rid of your anxiety, but to help you become more present in the moment. We often experience anxiety because we fixate on the past or on the future. However, meditation quiets an overactive brain so you’re intentionally focused on the here and now.
Sleep: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials for insomnia found that eight weeks of in-person meditation training significantly improved total waking time and sleep quality in patients with insomnia.
Relationships: Mindfulness enhances couples’ levels of relationship satisfaction, autonomy, closeness and acceptance of each other while reducing relationship distress.
Cognition: Meditating for just four days is enough to improve memory, executive functions and their ability to process visual information. Meditation leads to activation in brain regions involved in self-regulation, problem-solving, adaptive behaviour and introspection. A 2013 review of three studies suggests that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal ageing.
Research also suggests that practising meditation may reduce blood pressure and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
So where do I begin?
Try the tips below to start on your journey to a clearer mind. You can even try a movement meditation if that suits you, rather than sitting still. Sometimes this is just walking slowly and focusing on your footsteps, the sounds and your surrounds. Or a gentle, slow yoga practice moving with the breath.
Resources to help you start
- Youtube videos like this Six Phase Meditation
- Apps like Smiling Mind – a completely free set of guided meditations developed by a fellow Australian charity.
- Meditation group Meet-ups
- Meditation schools and classes in your area. Many yoga schools also offer group meditation
The Hello Sunday Morning reading list
19 books to read about alcoholA few weeks ago we asked members of the Hello Sunday Morning community to share with us any books that have inspired, empowered or informed them to change their relationship with alcohol. The response was incredible and wide-reaching. Because we believe it’s so important to acknowledge that individuals define their own relationships with alcohol, we’ve collated here the vast majority of recommendations we received. These traverse a wide range of tactics and ideologies, so we encourage you to read what sounds good to you. So without further ado and in no particular order (except for the first one, which is our team’s go-to), here we give you the Hello Sunday Morning reading list to help you on your journey to change your relationship with alcohol.
The Biology of DesireMarc Lewis, PHD, convincingly explores here the theory that addiction is not a disease. It’s a game-changer. From the blurb:
Through the vivid, true stories of five people who journeyed into and out of addiction, a renowned neuroscientist explains why the “disease model” of addiction is wrong and illuminates the path to recovery. The psychiatric establishment and rehab industry in the Western world have branded addiction a brain disease, based on evidence that brains change with drug use. But in The Biology of Desire, cognitive neuroscientist and former addict Marc Lewis makes a convincing case that addiction is not a disease, and shows why the disease model has become an obstacle to healing. Lewis reveals addiction as an unintended consequence of the brain doing what it’s supposed to do-seek pleasure and relief-in a world that’s not cooperating. Brains are designed to restructure themselves with normal learning and development, but this process is accelerated in addiction when highly attractive rewards are pursued repeatedly. Lewis shows why treatment based on the disease model so often fails, and how treatment can be retooled to achieve lasting recovery, given the realities of brain plasticity. Combining intimate human stories with clearly rendered scientific explanation, The Biology of Desire is enlightening and optimistic reading for anyone who has wrestled with addiction either personally or professionally.
High SobrietyWe’re unsurprising fans of this one: the chronicles of Jill Stark’s 12-month Hello Sunday Morning experience. From the blurb:
‘I’m the binge-drinking health reporter. During the week, I write about Australia’s booze-soaked culture. At the weekends, I write myself off.’Booze had dominated Jill Stark’s social life ever since she had her first sip of beer, at 13. She thought nothing could curb her love of big nights. And then came the hangover that changed everything. In the shadow of her 35th year, Jill made a decision: she would give up alcohol. But what would it mean to stop drinking in a world awash with booze? Booze had dominated Jill Stark’s social life ever since she had her first sip of beer, at 13. She thought nothing could curb her love of big nights. And then came the hangover that changed everything. In the shadow of her 35th year, Jill made a decision: she would give up alcohol. But what would it mean to stop drinking in a world awash with booze? This lively memoir charts Jill’s tumultuous year on the wagon, as she copes with the stress of the newsroom sober, tackles the dating scene on soda water, learns to watch the footy minus beer, and deals with censure from friends and colleagues, who tell her that a year without booze is ‘a year with no mates’. In re-examining her habits, Jill also explores Australia’s love affair with alcohol, meeting alcopop-swigging teens who drink to fit in, beer-swilling blokes in a sporting culture backed by booze, and marketing bigwigs blamed for turning binge drinking into a way of life. And she tracks the history of this national obsession: from the idea that Australia’s new colonies were drowning in drink to the Anzac ethos that a beer builds mateship, and from the six o’clock swill that encouraged bingeing to the tangled weave of advertising, social pressure, and tradition that confronts drinkers today.Will Jill make it through the year without booze? And if she does, will she go back to her old habits, or has she called last drinks? This is a funny, moving, and insightful exploration of why we drink, how we got here, and what happens when we turn off the tap. Will Jill make it through the year without booze? And if she does, will she go back to her old habits, or has she called last drinks? This is a funny, moving, and insightful exploration of why we drink, how we got here, and what happens when we turn off the tap.
SOBER – Son Of a Bitch Everything’s RealSober is a fictional story written by Pam R. about her experience with the program Alcoholics Anonymous and her struggles to rebuild her life. From the blurb:
Some people can drink socially, some people cannot. Lena Harod belongs to the latter group. An active alcoholic, Lena has reached a pivotal point in her drinking career. Racked with guilt, shame and self loathing she is driven to despair beyond comprehension. Lena’s story begins on an ill fated evening where her options look bleak. A chance meeting with a stranger sets her fate and her journey towards sobriety begins. As Lena slowly returns to the world of unaltered reality, she begins to see herself, other people and the wider world with a clarity she’s never experienced. SOBER is a fictional story of one woman’s experience with the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and her struggles to rebuild her life. It explores the trials and joys of finding a life without addiction with honesty and SOBER is a fictional story of one woman’s experience with the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and her struggles to rebuild her life. It explores the trials and joys of finding a life without addiction with honesty and humor. Lena could be any of us and this illuminating story will show the reader, that with a little courage and help, it’s never too late for redemption and recovery.
Okay I Quit, Now What? Becoming a Reinvented AlcoholicMark Tuschel doesn’t care if you drink or don’t drink, he simply declares how he made the changes he did. The book’s 12 chapters correspond to his method of change. From the blurb:
Quitting destructive drinking is the easy part – staying quit is the hard part.What do you do tonight, tomorrow, next weekend, when you go on vacation, for the rest of your life? Okay, I quit. Now what? is filled with practical strategies and concepts to make the most out of living sober. Many people expect too much out of life just because they quit drinking. This is an honest and raw view of life after liquor. Living sober can be the greatest thing you ever do – but you must be an active participant in your own Re-Invention to get the most out of sobriety. This thought provoking book will get you thinking and planning your new sober lifestyle. Personal responsibility and pride are the foundation of the principles. This is NOT a 12-step book or religious based. It is nontraditional and sometimes controversial. Adult language and situations are used in this book. NOT for the timid or bashful. It is written for those of us who want to control our destructive drinking and live a fully engaged, normal life. Mark lives what he writes. He is a former drunk himself. He brings “real life” strategies to this book. Okay, I quit. Now what? is helpful to steppers and non-steppers alike. “I have discovered that there is a very large subculture of non-steppers who want to succeed at sobriety, enjoy their life and be proud of accomplishing it on their own. Okay, I quit. Now what? is an alternative to traditional step systems. It is not religious based; it is personal responsibility based. Sobriety is an evolutionary process. Don’t just recover… Re-Invent yourself.” This book has 12 chapters that will give you ideas on how to handle sobriety and make the most out of living sober. It is practical and real. The purpose is to get you thinking and get you involved in maintaining your sobriety. Take control of your sobriety and get the most out of your life. I believe this book will help you go in the right direction, or at least get YOU to think on your own.
Neil Steinberg is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times who had a very public battle with the bottle. He openly describes his drinking habits, routines, obsessions and secret behaviours before and during his change.
From the blurb:
An extraordinarily honest memoir about the life of a functioning alcoholic and the realities of recovery from a veteran columnist for the Chicago Sun-TimesNeil Steinberg loves his wife. He loves his two young sons. He loves his job and his ramshackle old farmhouse in the suburbs. But he also loves to drink, a passion that rolls merrily along for twenty-five years until one terrible night when his two worlds collide and shatter. Drunkard is the story of one man’s fall down the rabbit hole of alcoholism, and his slow crawl back out. Sentenced to an outpatient rehab program, Steinberg discovers that twenty-eight days of therapy cannot reverse the toll decades of vigorous drinking take on one’s soul. In clear, distinctive, honest, and funny prose, Steinberg comes to grips with his actions, rebuilds his marriage, and reclaims his life. Unlike outlandish tales of addiction’s extremes, Steinberg’s story is a regular person’s account of the stark-yet-common realities of a problem faced by millions around the world. Drunkard is an important addition to the pantheon of critically acclaimed, bestselling memoirs such as The Tender Bar, Drinking: A Love Story, and Smashed.
The Easy Way to Stop DrinkingAllen Carr has a reputation for helping millions of people across the world control their drinking, eating and smoking habits. His method makes you think about the reasons behind your drinking. From the blurb:
Carr offers a startling new view of why we drink and how we can escape the addiction. Step by step, with devastating clarity and simplicity, he applies the Easyway™ method, dispelling all the illusions that surround the subject of drinking and that can make it almost impossible to imagine a life without alcohol. Only when we step away from all these supposed pleasures and understand how we are being duped to believe we are receiving real benefits can we begin to live our lives free from any desire or need for drinking.The Easyway™ method centers on removing the psychological need to drink—while the drinker is still drinking. Following the Easyway™:• You will not need willpower• You will not feel deprived• You will lose your fear of withdrawal pangs• You will enjoy social occasions more• You will be better equipped to handle stress. The Easy Way to Stop Drinking is a landmark work that offers a simple and painless solution to anyone who wants to escape from dependency on alcohol without feeling deprived.
How To Tell Them You Don’t DrinkRachel Black provides some real-life experiences with practical tips on how to share the news of cutting back or going drink-free with your family and friends. From the blurb:
Giving up alcohol is hard enough without the additional anxiety of how to break the news to family and friends. What will they say? What will they ask? What will they think? Whether you choose to tell them the truth or make an excuse this guide provides examples of how you can make it easier and how to respond to the questions they will ask. This book, like its predecessor ‘How to Party Sober’, is a little gem for those who choose to remain sober in a World soaked with alcohol and where drinking is the norm. Again, full of real life experience with many practical tips to guide you through tricky conversations. A must read.
The Sober Revolution-Calling Time on Wine O’ClockSarah Turner and Lucy Rocca look specifically at women and their relationships with alcohol, exploring the myths behind society’s acceptance of the habit. From the blurb:
Do you count down the minutes to wine o’clock on a daily basis? Is a bottle of Pinot Grigio your friend at the end of a long hard day? If you want to give up being controlled and defined by alcohol then now is the time to join The Sober Revolution… Fed up of living in a fog of hangovers, lethargy and guilt from too much wine? Have you tried to cut down without success? You are not alone. When it comes to alcohol, millions of people around the world find it hard to exercise moderation and become stuck in a vicious cycle of blame, guilt and using more alcohol as a way of coping. The Sober Revolution looks at women and their relationships with alcohol, exploring the myths behind this socially acceptable yet often destructive habit. Rather than continuing the sad spiral into addiction it helps women regain control of their drinking and live happier, healthier lives. Sarah Turner, cognitive behavioural therapist and addictions counsellor, and Lucy Rocca, founder of Soberistas.com, the popular social networking site for women who have successfully kicked the booze or would like to, give an insight into ways to find a route out of the world of wine. The Sober Revolution will open your eyes to the dangers of social drinking and give you the tools you need to have a happy life without the wine. Read it now and call time on wine o’clock forever.
Glass Half FullLucy Rocca retells the story of her journey from devoted wine lover to becoming sober and truly happy for the first time in her adult life. From the blurb:
In April 2011, Lucy Rocca woke up in a hospital bed with no memory of how she had ended up there. After accepting that her drinking had spiralled out of control, she made the decision there and then to never touch alcohol again. However, the early days were a challenge, and Lucy began recording her journey in a blog as a way of helping herself move forward to a happy and sober future. For someone who defined herself by her love of drinking for over twenty years, letting go of the booze crutch was initially a challenge, but over time, Lucy began to realise how much happier she was living alcohol-free. Glass Half Full is the story of her journey from hopelessly devoted wine fiend to sober and truly happy for the first time in her adult life.
This Naked Mind: Control AlcoholMillions of people worry that drinking is affecting their health, yet are unwilling to seek change because of the misery and stigma associated with recovery. From the blurb:
Millions of people worry that drinking is affecting their health, yet are unwilling to seek change because of the misery and stigma associated with alcoholism and recovery. They fear drinking less will be boring, involving deprivation, difficulty and significant lifestyle changes. This Naked Mind offers a new solution. Packed with surprising insight into the reasons we drink, it will open your eyes to the startling role of alcohol in our culture. Annie Grace brilliantly weaves psychological, neurological, cultural, social and industry factors with her extraordinarily candid journey resulting in a must read for anyone who drinks. This book, without scare tactics, pain or rules, gives you freedom from alcohol. By addressing causes rather than symptoms it is a permanent solution rather than lifetime struggle. It removes the psychological dependence allowing you to easily drink less (or stop drinking). Annie’s clarity, humor and unique ability to blend original research with riveting storytelling ensures you will thoroughly enjoy the process. In a world defined by ‘never enough’ Annie takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of alcohol and specifically the connection between alcohol and pleasure. She dispels the cultural myth that alcohol is a vital part of life and demonstrates how regaining control over alcohol is not only essential to personal happiness and fulfillment but also to ending the heartache experienced by millions as a result of secondhand drinking. Finally, with perfect clarity, this book opens the door to the life you have been waiting for.
WastedElspeth Muir explores a personal story of loss and grief and recognises a society that not only permits but encourages the damaging drinking habits of young Australians. From the blurb:
In 2009 Elspeth Muir’s youngest brother, Alexander, finished his last university exam and went out with some mates on the town. Later that night he wandered to the Story Bridge. He put his phone, wallet, T-shirt and thongs on the walkway, climbed over the railing, and jumped thirty metres into the Brisbane River below. Three days passed before police divers pulled his body out of the water. When Alexander had drowned, his blood-alcohol reading was almost five times the legal limit for driving. Why do some of us drink so much, and what happens when we do? Fewer young Australians are drinking heavily, but the rates of alcohol abuse and associated problems—from blackouts to sexual assaults and one-punch killings—are undiminished. Intimate and beautifully told, Wasted illuminates the sorrows, and the joys, of drinking.
Drinking, A Love StoryFrom the blurb:
Fifteen million Americans a year are plagued with alcoholism. Five million of them are women. Many of them, like Caroline Knapp, started in their early teens and began to use alcohol as “liquid armor,” a way to protect themselves against the difficult realities of life. In this extraordinarily candid and revealing memoir, Knapp offers important insights not only about alcoholism, but about life itself and how we learn to cope with it.
Mindful RecoveryThomas Bien explores a spiritual path to beating addiction and guides you step by step through ten powerful “doorways” to mindful change. From the blurb:
In Mindful Recovery, you’ll discover a fresh and effective method for healing from addiction that can help you handle important challenges, from managing anxiety and resisting cravings to dealing with emotional and physical imbalance. Drawing on both ancient spiritual wisdom and the authors’ extensive clinical psychological work with their patients over many years, Mindful Recovery shows you how to use the simple Buddhist practice of mindfulness to be aware of– and enjoy– life in the present moment without the need to enhance or avoid experience with addictive behaviors. Mindful Recovery guides you step by step through ten powerful “doorways” to mindful recovery, giving you specific strategies that can help you cultivate a sense of calm awareness and balance in your life. Filled with personal stories of recovery, practical exercises, instructions for meditation, and more, Mindful Recovery accompanies you on a journey of exploration and healing that will help you find the strength and the tools to change, leading you to a fresh new experience of everyday living.
Alan Carr’s Easy Way to Control AlcoholAlan Carr shows us that once we step away from all the imagined pleasures of alcohol and understand how we are duped into believing that we receive real benefits from it, we can lead our lives free from any desire or need for a drink. From the blurb:
Allen Carr established himself as the world’s greatest authority on helping people stop smoking and his internationally best-selling Easy Way to Stop Smoking has been published in over 40 languages and sold more than 10 million copies. In his Easy Way to Control Alcohol Allen applies his revolutionary method to drinking. With startling insight into why we drink and clear, simple, step-by-step instructions, he shows you the way to escape from the “alcohol trap” in the time it takes to read this book. His unique method removes the feeling of deprivation and works without using willpower. Allen dispels our illusions about alcohol, removes the psychological dependence and sets you free to enjoy life to the full.
Kick the Drink … EasilyJason Vale argues that there is no such thing as an alcoholic and that we have been conditioned to accept alcohol as a “normal substance in today’s society,” despite the fact that it is the major cause of many of today’s social problems and a wide range of health issues. From the blurb:
There is no such thing as an alcoholic and there is no such disease as alcoholism! (as society understands it). Whether you agree with this statement or not, one thing is for sure, you will never see alcohol in the same light ever again after reading this book. Jason Vale takes an honest and hard hitting look at people’s conceptions of our most widely consumed drug. Jason’s major argument is there is no such thing as an ‘alcoholic’ and that we are conditioned to accept alcohol as a ‘normal’ substance in today’s society despite the fact that it is the major cause of many of today’s social problems and a wide range of health issues. This book is much more than a simple eye opener, it will: change the way you see alcohol forever; show you how to stop drinking; help you enjoy the process and enjoy your life so much more than you do now without having to drink alcohol. So open your mind and take a journey with Jason to explore the myths about the most used and accepted drug addiction in the world!
Mrs D is Going WithoutLotta Dann stopped drinking and secretly started a blog that charted the highs and lows of learning to live without alcohol. From the blurb:
Mrs. D is an alcoholic, albeit a very nice, respectable, articulate, and groomed alcoholic. This is an honest, upfront, relatable account of one suburban housewife’s journey from miserable wine-soaked boozer to self-respecting sober lady. This book is an inspirational tale of self-transformation, addiction, and domesticity. This book lays out the entirely unexpected solo journey Mrs. D took in the first year of her sobriety, and reveals the incredible online support that came through on her confessional blog, a blog intended to be a private online diary but which turned into something else quite remarkable.
In The Realm Of Hungry GhostsBased on Gabor Maté’s two decades of experience as a medical doctor and his groundbreaking work with the severely addicted on Vancouver’s skid row, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts radically reenvisions this much misunderstood field by taking a holistic approach. From the blurb:
He would probably dispute it, but Gabor Maté is something of a compassion machine. Diligently treating the drug addicts of Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside with sympathy in his heart and legislative reform in mind can’t be easy. But Maté never judges. His book is a powerful call-to-arms, both for the decriminalization of drugs and for a more sympathetic and informed view of addiction. As Maté observes, “Those whom we dismiss as ‘junkies’ are not creatures from a different world, only men and women mired at the extreme end of a continuum on which, here or there, all of us might well locate ourselves.” In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts begins by introducing us to many of Dr. Maté’s most dire patients who steal, cheat, sell sex, and otherwise harm themselves for their next hit. Maté looks to the root causes of addiction, applying a clinical and psychological view to the physical manifestation and offering some enlightening answers for why people inflict such catastrophe on themselves. Finally, he takes aim at the hugely ineffectual, largely U.S.-led War on Drugs (and its worldwide followers), challenging the wisdom of fighting drugs instead of aiding the addicts, and showing how controversial measures such as safe injection sites are measurably more successful at reducing drug-related crime and the spread of disease than anything most major governments have going. It’s not easy reading, but we ignore his arguments at our peril. When it comes to combating the drug trade and the ravages of addiction, society can use all the help it can get. –Kim Hughes
Alcohol Lied to MeCraig Beck tried all the willpower-based attempts to stop drinking and failed. Slowly he discovered his truth about alcohol and one by one all the lies he had previously believed started to fall apart. From the blurb:
Craig Beck is a well-regarded family man with two children, a nice home and a successful media career. A director of several companies & at one time the trustee of a large children’s charity. Craig was a successful & functioning professional man in spite of a ‘2 bottles of wine a night’ drinking habit. For 20 years he struggled with problem drinking, all the time refusing to label himself an alcoholic because he didn’t believe he met the stereotypical image that the word portrayed. He tried countless ways to cut down; attempting ‘dry months’, banning himself from drinking spirits, only drinking at the weekend & special occasions (and found that it is amazing how even the smallest of event can suddenly become ‘special’). All these ‘will power’ based attempts to stop drinking failed (exactly as they were destined to do). Slowly he discovered the truth about alcohol addiction & one by one all the lies he had previously believed started to fall apart. For the first time he noticed that he genuinely didn’t want to drink anymore. In this book he will lead you though the same amazing process. The Craig Beck method is unique… – No need to declare yourself an alcoholic. – A permanent cure, not a lifetime struggle. – No group meetings or expensive rehab. – No humiliation, no pain and 100% no ‘will power’ required. – Treats the source of the problem not the symptoms.
Under the VolcanoMalcolm Lowry’s novel tells the story of Geoffrey Firmin, an alcohol-dependent British consul in the small Mexican town of Quauhnahuac, on the Day of the Dead, 2 November 1938. From the blurb:
Geoffrey Firmin, a former British consul, has come to Quauhnahuac, Mexico. Here the consul’s debilitating malaise is drinking, and activity that has overshadowed his life. Under the Volcano is set during the most fateful day of the consul’s life–the Day of the Dead, 1938. His wife, Yvonne, arrives in Quauhnahuac to rescue him and their failing marriage, inspired by a vision of life together away from Mexico and the circumstances that have driven their relationship to the brink of collapse. Yvonne’s mission is to save the consul is further complicated by the presence of Hugh, the consul’s half-brother, and Jacques, a childhood friend. The events of this one day unfold against a backdrop unforgettable for its evocation of a Mexico at once magical and diabolical. Under the Volcano remains one of the most powerful and lyrical statements on the human condition and one man’s constant struggle against the elemental forces that threaten to destroy him.
How to plan the best Valentine’s date
The key to a great Valentine’s DayHave no expectations. It’s usually appreciated when you have planned and put effort into creating the perfect date, but spontaneity can also work wonders in the romantic world. Try not to become too attached to an idea or a reaction from your date, as sometimes things don’t always turn out as you have imagined. There is no positive outcome from comparing. So what if you’re friend got flowers sent to her work, was picked up in a limousine and taken to an exclusive day spa followed by a candle lit dinner on top of a tower? Maybe that kind of extravagance doesn’t suit you or your date and something a little more low-key is just right.
Nerves are a good thing for a great dateAlthough people tend to drink before a date to calm their nerves when they meet a potential Mr. or Mrs. Right, not all dates need to involve drinks at a bar. A lot of the time being nervous means you’re excited! Go with an open mind, dress comfortably and just be you. Make the most of those butterflies in your belly: they don’t often stick around after the honeymoon phase. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dqm2ZRN7h9M&w=560&h=315]
Date Ideas ♥♥♥
Cook dinner togetherWhat’s more delicious and comforting than homemade pizzas? Nothing. Tie your hair up and get a little messy. Cooking is a great way to learn about people and it gives you an activity to do for those awkward lulls in conversation. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ocre0kXgvg&w=560&h=315] Try to include ingredients out of the list of aphrodisiac foods that are proven to spark romance, such as:
Check out what’s onCheck out if there is anything interesting or new happening in your area, like a film festival or outdoor cinema, an art exhibition or a pop-up food truck.
Keep it simpleFind a scenic spot such as a headland, rooftop or beach. Pack a blanket and pick up some takeaway goodies like fresh prawns and ginger beer. Don’t forget a portable speaker to play smooth tunes in the background. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uw5OLnN7UvM&w=560&h=315] Our favourite love songs: Moondance ♥ Van Morrison Let’s Stay Together ♥ Al Green Your Song ♥ Elton John Just The Two Of Us ♥ Bill Withers Let’s Get It On ♥ Marvin Gaye
Go on an adventureTake a walk and explore the city, hike in the bush, swim in the ocean, find a waterfall, or search for a secret spot where you can be alone.
Try something newSign up for a class like dancing, pottery or photography: you never know what may spike a shared passion.
See a gigShare a taste in music? Head along to a live gig and let the music serenade your ears and the feeling of love satisfy your heart.
Drive somewhereRoad trip! There’s nothing like heading down the highway with the wind in your hair and a lover beside you. Head out of town for a day or night, park up somewhere beautiful and bring some delicious snacks.
Need to reignite an old spark?Take this specific time of year to really appreciate your loved one and your relationship. Reflect together on the start of your love, or on memories that make you smile and make your heart feel full. Try something new if you have been doing the same thing together for a while; maybe it’s time to mix it up with an adventure or an outing to somewhere different. It’s remarkable what a little change can do.
Personal reflections on freedom and alcohol
How context frames the things we rely on
It’s been three months now of my first ever prolonged alcohol-free experience, so I’ve decided to write down some thoughts about it. The following reflections are not from someone with a dependence, nor from a party animal or binge drinker. It is not a personal alcohol problem that has triggered this alcohol-free experience, but a simple medical treatment. You might think, “well, what’s the big deal then?” — but these three months without a drop of alcohol have made me question how we draw the line on what we call dependence.
Why is it a big deal?
Being a teenager — an average one, I believe — I was avid to break free from adult rules that decided what I could and couldn’t do. Being a not-yet-adult was so confining! Not being able to work and earn your own money, needing permission to go out with friends, not being allowed to drink or smoke (although, of course, most of us did these long before the legal age). Even though I had relatively liberal parents compared to my friends back then, those limitations were everywhere, and it bothered me that I couldn’t decide when I felt responsible enough to do or try certain things. I think a lot about freedom since those teenage times. I praise it, chase it, and even avoid some commitments. The ability to do what I please at any time and make my own decisions is precious to me.
Teenage-hood is arguably the most socially busy time of our lives, and that’s the time when we are finally allowed to drink. It is not a coincidence that social life goes so hand in hand with alcohol and tobacco, the two hugely advertised drugs that mark our breaking free from our repressed childhoods. No more allowing adults to make decisions for us on how to have fun! Besides, it’s from adults that we’d learned to associate alcohol with friends and fun.
The irony is that, although we become free to choose alcohol or cigarettes when we reach the age of independence (which most of us do, as with anything that has been denied to us previously), choosing drugs as social enablers actually leads many of us to the complete opposite of freedom.
“Anyone can see that a child is not free when he desires milk, nor the drunken man when he says things which he later regrets.” — Rudolf Steiner
I love Steiner’s quote as it illustrates very well how, when we are under the effects of alcohol, even at a moderately tipsy level, we lose control of our will. Free will is the capacity to act and decide independently, without influences. As you might guess, being so paranoid about my freedom, I have always been a bit uncomfortable about losing my free will. I believe that’s one of the reasons why I’ve never drunk too much alcohol. Being tipsy is already distressing for me, besides associating it with sickness, which I believe is one of the most terrible natural opponents of freedom.
Still, I’ve never had anything against alcohol itself. I do enjoy a fresh bitter ale at a sunny terrace, and lately, since living in Australia, I love a glass of Shiraz with a tasty local dinner. And I carry the pride of tequila in my veins as a good Mexican, so for over 11 years living abroad, I’ve been pouring my sweet roots to friends from different places around the world, teaching them how a good tequila shouldn’t be drunk as a shot, but rather slowly, tasting it!
A better understanding
For over nine months now, I’ve been listening, reading and following stories, news, and theories about drinking. Funnily enough, my four months of alcohol-free experience comes at a time when empathising with people who want to drink less is part of my daily life. I’ll give you a bit of background on this.
Less than a year ago, my boyfriend and I moved to Australia: the second-ranked of OECD countries on (pure) alcohol consumption per capita, as ranked by the World Health Organization in 2015. Quite a shocking fact when you’ve lived in Finland, thinking that no other country could beat them!
We lived for over a year in Vietnam in between Finland and Australia, where we were fascinated by always having a fridge full of beer at the office (it was an Australian company). The interesting part was not that we had those beers at work, but that it remained full! There was no need to refill with beer very often. Fridays came, when we had a small get-together at the office, and we foreigners were almost always the only ones with beers in our hands. This isn’t to say that Vietnamese wouldn’t ever drink, but local guys would rather play games, ride their scooters back home safely (or relatively safely), and avoid having their wives angry at them. The women, meanwhile, would take care of their figure by avoiding the calories from alcoholic drinks.
When we moved to Sydney, I was already looking forward to becoming a freelancer working on ethical projects. I didn’t want to work any longer for large enterprises where design was a mere tool to increase profit. I had long awaited the opportunity to use my skills for a cause to make this world a better place. Freedom and inspiration were going to be my drivers from now on. After about a month in beautiful Sydney I was dealing with my lack of leadership and contacts to turn my saving-the-world ideas into a living; then, serendipity hit me, and I joined the inspiring team of Hello Sunday Morning, a small charity with a mission to help people change their relationships with alcohol.
The thing that drove me to Hello Sunday Morning was the organisation’s mindset around alcohol and drug consumption. It conveyed a very positive view where openness, motivation, and support were the tools to help people free themselves from habit. The aim was to use state of the art psychology and technology to help people change their habits to healthier ones.
I’ve been learning a lot since becoming part of the team. Listening to my colleagues’ knowledge, plus interviewing very diverse people from our focus groups and reading about addiction, habits, and behaviour change has been renovating my view of alcohol in society.
I didn’t ever suspect that helping people rise above dependence would be my way to make this world a better place. I didn’t ever consider alcohol as something to worry or care much about. I would often avoid drunk people, even family or friends, and sometimes blamed them for not “controlling” themselves. I would ignorantly assume that people with addictions didn’t want nor appreciated help or concern. We tend to generalise, and I had been doing so for many years. When I was still of a young age, wondering about the reasoning behind those strange things adults did, I would see my dad now and then behave in an odd and embarrassing way after a meet up with his friends, and I would only feel pity, shame — and, a few times, even disgust. I had learned to relate alcohol to grumpy, annoying and careless behaviour. In a way, as Ellen J. Langer explains it in her book Mindfulness, I had a limited view of alcohol dependence during my youth and didn’t consider all the different reasons behind alcohol consumption, nor the possibilities to improve things. The truth is, all of us can do a lot to help people free themselves from dependence and habits, and even prevent it to a certain point. We can all do this with a bit of behaviour change.
From my early views about alcohol, you may assume I would reject it and avoid drinking myself, but that was not so. I was always free to choose what I would see as the non-stupid, non-annoying way, of course. But going out with friends to have fun is rarely an alcohol-free situation, and wherever there’s alcohol, especially when you’re young, there’s a good amount of social pressure to drink to a point where you start to lose that sense of free will.
I have indeed chosen stupidity many times. Once or twice as a teenager I drove a bit tipsy, noticing I had drunk more than I meant when my calculations for driving through a narrow space were not good enough (and later lying to a trustful parent who lent me the car). Luckily for me, a small car scratch was as far as it went. I have never drunk to the point that I lost memory of it, nor have I experienced those terrible hangovers one will often hear about from friends. But we don’t usually realise when freedom disappears. Freedom to enjoy a social life with or without alcohol, to decide whether drinking or not when under pressure, to choose when to have the last drink.
We usually understand alcohol dependence as the point when a person cannot stop drinking on a daily or almost daily basis. But on a normal outing with friends, a simple dinner with your partner, or a Christmas festivity, are we really free from depending on alcohol to feel like we fit in or have fun?
Because I currently don’t have the freedom to choose to have a drink, I realise how easy it is to enjoy life without falling to the pressure of having one. Perhaps I will appreciate that freedom of choice even more after I am allowed to drink again, and may understand better the reason behind choosing to have a beer or a glass of wine instead of water and lime. I will probably savour whatever I pick with more delight and decide based on taste and what makes me feel good.
Originally posted on Hello Sunday Morning’s Medium page by our wonderful Design Lead, Brenda.
How to keep up the good vibes
It’s the start of a new year and generally people will be feeling pretty optimistic about the time ahead. Resolutions have been made, goals have been set and a plan of some sort has been established. Perhaps you’re feeling like you can take on the world!
Here are some tips on how to keep your good vibrations up while getting back into the swing of things.
How to stay optimistic throughout the year
Listen to music
“Music, the combiner, nothing more spiritual, nothing more sensuous, a god, yet completely human, advances, prevails, holds highest place; supplying in certain wants and quarters what nothing else could supply.” Walt Whitman.
Plug that speaker in and let the magic happen. The power of music can do wonders on lifting moods and keeping us feeling good. Check out these 52 songs to cheer you up every time.
Listening to tunes that make you want to shake your hips or tap your feet has been found to lift your energy levels. When music sparks something in us or makes us want to bop our head, our brains release dopamine, a chemical that produces positive feelings. In fact, it has been proven by physiologists that playing music benefits your brain more than any other activity.
Music can also be very therapeutic and has been used as a substitute for sleeping tablets, as a motivational device to ‘move’ out of low moods or depression, as a coping mechanism for various problems, and as a way we connect with others.
Top up your optimism by being spontaneous
Marie Lethbridge, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist at Mind Health Ltd, says that being spontaneous allows us to be mindful and totally immersed in the activity we’re engaging in, which has been linked to an increase in mental wellbeing and happiness:
“Often we behave in a rigid, planned and fixed way because of anxieties and worries we have … Instead of worrying about the future or ruminating about the past, acting instinctively allows us to engage fully in what we’re doing at the time, and focus our whole attention on this.”
But how do you become spontaneous? We have some ideas to add a little spice to your life by mixing it up:
- Jump off the bus a few stops earlier and wander back home. Remember to stop and smell the flowers.
- Leave a weekend day free to wake up and do whatever you feel like doing.
- Be impulsive once in a while; it keeps things exciting.
- Just say ‘yes’ and don’t over analyse.
Sustain optimism by getting outside
It’s hard to feel stressed while lying in a fluffy patch of grass with a gentle breeze tingling your skin and the sun shining through gaps in the trees. Spending some quality time with nature can be beneficial for anyone who wants to increase their Outdoorphins or Vitamin G (green).
Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, has researched how being outdoors can even make us nicer. “In nature,” he says, “we feel more in touch with who we really are and what we want to do.”
And it makes you happier: a study from the University of Essex in the UK found that 30 minutes of walking in a green scene reduced depression in 71 per cent of participants.
To go about the new year walking on sunshine, you first have to get some!
Did you know that by looking directly into the early morning sunlight you increase your serotonin levels, a hormone associated with boosting mood and helping you feel calm and focused? The key here being “early morning” – please don’t look at the sun when it’s too bright.
Without enough sunlight exposure, a person’s serotonin levels can dip low and cause a higher risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that is triggered by changing seasons.
A little bit of sunlight and exposure to UV-B radiation in the sun’s rays is the best natural source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, muscles and overall health, including decreasing chances of osteoporosis, and assisting in healing skin conditions.
The daily top-up: get enough sleep
We have all heard these before: “sleep tight”; “beauty sleep”; “well rested”. And for good reason. There are many benefits to getting the perfect night’s sleep for your physical, mental and spiritual self. Not getting enough pillow time can lead to irritable moods and a gloomier outlook on life.
Research studies in healthy people have shown that even one night without sleep causes sleepiness, fatigue, irritability and lack of motivation. Sleep loss will make us feel more upset, angry and sad in response to unpleasant events and make us less able to enjoy and be happy about good things in our life. This increases feelings of negativity and negative reactions when something doesn’t go well or as planned.
Give your passions some love
There were probably many people who made a new year resolution to take up something they have always wanted to do. Passion drives you to push limits (limits which you often create for yourself) and it gives you the opportunity to inspire. Like signing up for karate classes or getting into yoga. We all have things that we love doing.
It’s easy to get caught up in work and responsibilities and not make time to do these things we love doing and after a while we can even forget that good feeling that comes over us when we’re pursuing our passion.
It’s important to find the time to fit the passion in to keep the pessimistic attitude out.
How to practise self care
What is self care?Simply put: self care is looking after yourself. But it is sometimes easier said than done. How do you know what constitutes looking after yourself? Do I eat a salad for my physical health, or a cupcake for my mental wellbeing? It is tricky. “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation,” said American author Audre Lorde. It’s true that sometimes self care can feel selfish or unnecessary. But there are a lot of health professionals who argue it is an important part of well being. Self care is not the same thing as pampering yourself or a simple act of treating yourself. In fact, there exist academic journals specialising in the area of self care, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) even has resources relating to it, suggesting that self care is important for all aspects of our health. WHO point out that it is a broad concept but is important for people to establish and maintain health, as well as prevent and deal with illness. Some have split the idea of self care into ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ self care for your psychological and physiological well being. But really it’s about listening to how you feel and introspecting about what it is that you need in that moment.
Why is self care important?
Self care keeps you healthyOn some level, self care is simply an act in taking good care of yourself. This means eating well, exercising, drinking enough water, practicing good hygiene and getting enough sleep (to name a few). Self care means that you remember to engage in these healthy activities even if you have an urgent deadline or are experiencing a stressful life event.
Self care prevents burnoutSometimes life gets tough. Hey, life is tough. And our demanding lifestyles often lead us to push ourselves to our limits, hence, burnout. Not only does burnout feel awful, it is actually pretty bad for your health too. So self care is a good way to avoid getting to this point.
Self care reduces negative effects of stressStress does all sorts of terrible things to us. Amongst a whole host of other things it can cause weight gain, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, hormone issues, the whole lot. So it is particularly important to check off some self care when you are under stress.
Self care is part of the processSelf care is not a reward; it is part of the process. But when you’re busy caught in the mechanics of living, it can be difficult to avoid falling into the trap of believing the opposite. Eating a good meal is great. But it’s not a reward, it is part of the process. So is taking a shower. And going for a run. See, self care isn’t a one-time deal. The best way to practice it is to engage is small self care habits every day. So, self care is important. We’ve mentioned a few self care activities above but how exactly do you do it?
Self care activities
- Eat well
- Drink water
- Go to see the doctor for regular checkups
- Sleep well
- Minimise stress in your life
- Make time for fun
- Schedule breaks when you work
- Make time for the people you love
- Take time in the day to meditate or take a few deep breaths
- Feed your mind – go to an art gallery or read a good book, whatever suits your fancy
- Check in with your emotions
- Spend time journaling or writing down your thoughts
- Help someone in need, this could be small like carrying someone’s bag or shouting a stranger’s coffee
- Do something purely because it makes you happy
- Unplug from technology for a while
- Create something. Maybe art, or a film
- Spend time on personal admin
- Do some exercise! It could be something fun like Kayaking or a dance class
- Know when and where to set boundaries. Sometimes you have to say no to a request
- Celebrate your wins and accomplishments!
- Express gratitude
- Ask for help when you need it
The importance of effective goal setting
With Christmas celebrations under our (slightly looser) belt and the anticipation of New Year’s Eve just around the corner, it’s long been a popular tradition to reflect on the year that’s passed and create resolutions for the year ahead. Research has shown that about half of all adults make New Year’s resolutions, however, fewer than 10 per cent actually manage to keep them for more than a few months.
ABC Health’s Top 10 resolutions of last year were:
- Stay fit and healthy
- Lose weight
- Enjoy life to the fullest
- Spend less, save more
- Spend more time with family and friends
- Get organised
- Will not make any resolutions
- Learn something new/new hobby
- Travel more
- Read more
Old habits die hard – the importance of effective goal-setting
How many of us have strictly stuck to a resolution for a whole year? For those of you who keep seeing the same patterns over and over, the following scenario may sound familiar. Say you want to lose 7kgs by the end of the year. You sign up to a gym membership and start off going steady for the first few weeks or months, then you take a weekend trip away, and the next weekend is too busy to find time to work out. Next minute you find yourself out of the habit. This leads to resentment of oneself for not succeeding in reaching your weight loss goal, and a feeling of guilt that can cause us to create even worse habits. If we think larger than ourselves, we find that external factors can also play a part in distracting us from a goal, like opposing interests and values of a social circle.
The idea of a new year’s resolution was claimed to have been created by the ancient Babylonians some 4,000 years ago, but unlike the contemporary West, their year began in mid-March when the crops were planted. The babylonians made promises to the pagan gods and, if kept, it was understood that the gods would bestow favour on them for the coming year. If the promises were to be broken, they would no longer be in the god’s favour.
The early Christians are also said to have their own history of making resolutions. For them, the first day of the new year was time to meditate on one’s past mistakes, resolving to do and be better in the future. In fact, in 1740, the English clergyman John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service, most commonly held on the eve of the new year, which involved a service of singing and celebrating this time of renewal.
Why it’s important to make goals or resolutions
In their article on ‘Common Goal Setting’ Lifehacker identifies that, “one of the biggest benefits of creating goals is that they force us to focus our time, attention, and energy on a specific objective, instead of scattering our focus and our resources among the broad range of possibilities dying for our attention.” Creating goals and resolutions can be very motivating and progressive: for careers; financials; family; health; and, on an individual level, they can help us on our journey of personal growth.
However, we have to be careful when making resolutions or setting goals as they can often turn out to be a double-edged sword when people tend to align performance with self worth. We have to make sure we don’t strive to reach an idealised version of ourselves or keep changing our definitions of success so that true satisfaction is unobtainable. In Adam Philip’s book, Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, he says “We are always haunted by the myth of our potential, of what we might have it in ourselves to be or do.”
In a Womankind article by Madeleine Dore called ‘How Do you Measure Your Life?’, the author identifies that the obsession with our potential is prevalent in highly developed societies where our physiological and safety needs are met. The theory goes that the lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are met, therefore leaving us to focus on higher goals such as self-actualisation.
Dore says most of our daily activities or goals are exotelic, meaning we reap the benefits somewhere in the future, rather than enjoying them for their own sake in the present. “We need to learn to look away from external expectations or pressures, what we think we should be doing and find the experiences that possess inherent enjoyment for ourselves.” She shares the insight that goals that are borrowed from others or internalised from societal expectations about what we should be doing are not soul-fulfilling goals. In our culture, an individual or organisation cannot be considered successful unless goals are achieved. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says, “the problem arises when people are so fixated on what they want to achieve that they cease to derive pleasure from the present.”
Many people compare themselves with other people’s lives and achievements, but often it’s not even other people’s accomplishments that can make one feel like they’re lacking in some area of their lives. It is, in fact, their own expectations.
So, how do we actually create an effective goal or resolution?
There’s an overwhelming amount of goal setting advice out there, with the popular tips focusing on:
- Not being too specific. For example, “I want to lose 8kg by the second month of the year.” Instead, try to set yourself something more achievable like, “I want to run three times a week and only eat fast food once a week.” Then the specifics may be a byproduct of the resolution or goal.
- Quality vs. quantity. Setting too many goals can throw you off the challenge and cloud your motivation. However, setting a few relevant goals for the year can help you stay clear and focused on the intention.
- Don’t have unrealistic expectations, but find the balance. “If your goal isn’t scary and exciting at the same time, your goal is too small.”
- Start big and narrow the focus. Think long term, think about the deeper meaning of why you want to achieve the goal, and start to filter out the crap. Come back to a single or a few intentions that resonate with you at this present time to enrich your life.
- Making public goals can sometimes be more powerful than private goals, as they come with a sense of accountability and others can get behind you for extra support.
When we get down to the core, our goals should all be about learning and growth.
For the more nerdy of us, research in a wide variety of field and laboratory settings has shown that H.A.R.D goals have the greatest impact on performance (Ragnar, 2014). H.A.R.D (heartfelt, animated, required and difficult) goals act to focus attention, mobilise effort, and increase persistence at a task (Ragnar, 2014). Incorporating H.A.R.D goals will help create a growth mindset, rather than the previously fixed mindset of, “I have finished the task and I am done, that was too easy.”
S. M. A. R. T goals are also an effective way to set a goal. as they keep you accountable. It is realistic, it has a deadline, you have to make sure it is attainable and within your abilities, and you must have a way to measure your success (or lack thereof). Coupling S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound) goals with a Reach goal can help make your goals more effective. A Reach goal is an ultimate end goal that moves you. It need not have a deadline or even be terribly specific, but it must motivate you and make you really want to reach the end.
Make your goals work for you
Whatever goals you choose, it’s vital that you have some kind of emotional connection that makes you hungry to achieve them. There are some techniques that help your goals come to you like manifestation and the law of attraction (manifesting the goal or the outcome), visualisation (creating a vision board), and being aware of and in tune with the synchronicity around you. These can all help tie your emotional consciousness into the end result.
The most important thing to get out of the resolution/goal setting process is to learn from and enjoy the experience. Madeleine Dore says, “We cannot control how respected, accomplished and desired we become. All we can do is enjoy the experience- the process- and resist letting our expectations define us, or our potential overshadow of how we live now.”
How to celebrate
Most of us celebrate the many big events in our lives: religious holidays such as Christmas and Ramadan; personal commemorations like birthdays and anniversaries; and generally abstract state-sanctioned celebrations such as New Year’s Day. However, we tend to plow through life at such a pace that we seldom take the time to celebrate the most important thing: life.
Increasingly we only celebrate when there’s a “good reason” to, and in doing so we forget that traditions, ceremonies and celebrations are a significant part of human connection and important for our overall wellbeing and optimistic outlook on life. In the name of progress, our cultures have stopped rejoicing over everyday occurrences like sunrises and important seasonal events like harvest time. So while we’ve become very good at planting the seeds these days, we need to start reaping the crops again.
How to celebrate and create optimism
Research on positive psychology by Hasassah Littman-Ovadia, has shown that when we are able to look forward to something worth celebrating, no matter how big or small, we really do feel more optimistic. The things to look forward to and celebrate could be anything: a promotion at work; cooking a successful meal for a loved one; a beautiful, sunny day after a week of rain; or good news from a family member.
- Helps us stay in the present
- Builds self-respect
- Feeds our basic human need for self-love and self-acceptance
- Positive magnification
- Makes it easier to self-promote
Any celebration, whether it be big or small, or important to others or not, is really about taking a step back and noticing the good things in your life. It can also be a reminder of our talents and abilities, skills and persistence. Drawing on those things can motivate us to keep working toward our goals. According to social psychology researcher Fred Bryant, when we stop to savour the good stuff, we buffer ourselves against the bad and build resilience.
Celebrating makes you grateful
“Have an attitude of gratitude”
A study on how gratitude impacts our wellbeing was conducted by Dr. Robert A. Emmons, the founding editor of the Journal of Positive Psychology. The study split several hundred people into three different groups, all of whom were instructed to keep daily journals. One of the groups was required to write about the day without labelling the events ‘good’ or ‘bad’, another wrote about negative things that had happened, and the final group was told to make a daily list of things they felt grateful for.
The gratitude journal group had significantly higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. They also experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more consistently and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals.
“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” – Thornton Wilder
You don’t need to drink to celebrateWhen we explored the relationship between celebrating and alcohol, we narrowed the glue between the two down to three things:
Celebrating the everyday, sans hangover
We often move from one thing to the next without really giving the time to transition onto the next thing, let alone celebrate our achievements.
Here are some tips to help you celebrate the everyday:Notice the moment. What is it you feel proud of? What’s working for you? Take time to reflect on achievements in life, regardless of what other people think of those achievements. Allow yourself to be proud of achievements. If you have worked hard for something, let yourself be rewarded. Pause and set the moment apart by stepping out of your routine for just a few minutes.
Time to take actionTreat yo self. Buy fresh flowers for your home for no good reason or play loud music and dance around the house just because you can. Take yourself out to that movie you have wanted to see for a while or invite friends over for tea and homemade goodies. Make little speeches and toasts to yourself, to friends, family and loved ones when something good happens, or when you would like to acknowledge a person or an event.
How to get the perfect night’s sleep
Why do we need sleep?Probably the most interesting thing about sleep is that, despite the fact that we spend almost a third of our lives doing it, scientists still don’t really know exactly why we need to sleep. So sleep (something we do every day) joins ranks with the deepest parts of the ocean, outer space and the number pi; those big mysteries of our reality. That’s actually amazing. A number of theories are in the works, including the idea that we need sleep for memory and cognitive consolidation, and the idea that sleep promotes physiological longevity. And while there remains a lack of consensus around its purpose, researchers all agree that sleep must serve a very important function. In fact, when you consider it in evolutionary terms, sleep as an activity is particularly risky for survival. Think about the fact that when animals are asleep, they are more vulnerable to predators. So if this risky behaviour managed to withstand the test of time, it must serve an essential physiological or behavioural purpose. Sleep must be, in some way, an adaptive function for animal survival.
How does sleep work?While we may not understand too much of the ‘why’, we do know quite a lot about the ‘how’ of sleep. And it is quite interesting (I promise!). Essentially, Sleep is regulated by two separate body systems, the C-process and the S-process.
Process-C: your personal body clockThis is the circadian body system. You may have heard of the idea that sleep runs in cycles or stages. This is the C-process at work. There are 5 stages within each (approximately) 90 minute sleep cycle, with stages one to four getting progressively ‘deeper’ i.e. harder to wake from. The cycle ends with the 5th stage of sleep, known as the REM (rapid eye movement) stage during which dreaming occurs. The theory of process-C actually posits that the body has its own internal clock (um, super cool, right?). This clock sets its time through exposure to daylight. Jet lag is experienced mostly because of this process, it means that your internal daylight clock is thrown off. (So a tip for combating jet lag is to remind your brain it is daytime by simply stepping out into sun!)
Process-S: chemical processesThe S-process is known as the sleep-wake homeostatic drive. Which, yes, sounds like a bunch of medical jargon but all it really means is that it is driven by body and brain chemicals like melatonin. The most important of these chemicals, melatonin, is actually a hormone produced in the brain and is implicated in a number of bodily processes, including your immune system and nervous system. This process is pretty simple, actually: the longer you stay awake, the more melatonin you build up and the more you feel tired. This process explains why napping is a way of overcoming sleepiness. In combination, these two processes explain the mechanism for sleep in our bodies. Understanding these processes, and understanding what is happening when we sleep, is a useful step towards learning how to sleep better.
Sleep hacks: how to get the perfect night’s sleep
No nightcapsFirst and foremost. One of the myths about sleep that really grinds my gears: night caps. Night caps do not work. Period. While alcohol may make you feel sleepy or even allow you to fall asleep quicker, the quality of this sleep is significantly impaired. REM sleep, which is considered the most mentally restorative (see above), is particularly affected by alcohol. So this is why it isn’t surprising to wake up feeling exhausted after an evening drink. And vice versa: no bedtime alcohol means waking up feeling refreshed!
Food mattersIt is important to avoid eating too soon before turning in. Eating right before bed is associated with a bunch of unpleasant effects, from weight gain to acid reflux. Of course, these effects are compounded by what you’re eating, too, as acid reflux specialists point out. Obviously, caffeine is a big no-no right before bed (i.e. at least 6 hours before sleeping). And while there isn’t much to support that old myth that eating cheese before bed gives you nightmares, researchers do think that eating anything right before bed can disrupt your sleep and therefore your dreams. It is suggested that we stop eating by 8pm in order to minimise the effects of digestion on our sleep.
Exposure to Sunshine!Stepping out into the sun at least once a day is a good (and relatively easy) way to maintain your sleep-wake cycles. Thinking back to the C-process described above, natural light signals to our brains that it is daylight and therefore we should be awake. But the flip-side of this is that we need to be careful about exposing ourselves to light when it is nighttime: it is suggested that electronic blue light can affect our sleep cycles, too, so no more Instagram scrolling before bed!
Chill out, take a bathBy which I mean actually cool down (but it doesn’t hurt to relax, either). Sleep cycles are strongly linked to body temperature. During sleep, your core body temperature drops to its lowest point, and your body actually begins cooling down a few hours before falling asleep. Therefore it can also be a good idea to keep your room temperature down (just a few notches) so your body picks up the signal to sleep. Funnily enough, it can also help to have a warm bath or shower. This is because it is a drop in your core body temperature that signals your brain to sleep; hot water therefore raises your body temperature and later as you dry off, you cool down, telling your brain it’s time for some shut eye.
ExerciseI know, I know. I too am completely sick of being told to exercise more! But, sleeping better just happens to be another positive outcome to add to the seemingly endless list of ‘reasons you should exercise’. Researchers have found the effects of physical activity are so good for helping you sleep better, that exercise is now being considered a non-pharmaceutical treatment alternative for chronic insomniacs.
Techniques to get to sleepI know that when I am not getting a particularly good night’s sleep, I generally begin to stress about not sleeping well, which in turn makes me less likely to get to sleep. (As you can tell I think about sleep a lot. Too much, though? Never.) So over the years I’ve picked up some techniques to help me get to sleep better.
Breathing techniquesThe 4-7-8 breathing exercise is purported to help you fall asleep fast (/fast asleep). It’s pretty simple, so even if you’re skeptical, it really doesn’t hurt to give this one a try. How to do it:
- Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your front upper teeth. This is not necessary but recommended.
- Exhale completely through you mouth. Let it out like a loud sigh.
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose (quietly) for 4 counts.
- Hold your breath for seven counts (yes I agree this seems like ages)
- Exhale through your mouth for eight counts. This means you need to let the air out of your lungs veryyyy slowly. You’ve completed one breathing cycle.
- Now inhale again. Try for at least three cycles in total!
Progressive Muscle RelaxationThis is essentially a classic relaxation technique, involving the progressive relaxation of your muscles (as you can tell from the very creative name). It can take anywhere between 5-15 minutes, and hey, you can do it when you’re already lying in bed. How to do it:
- Lie down in a quiet place. Breathe normally and get comfortable.
- Starting from the top of your head, you will start to focus on certain muscle groups, first tensing these muscles for a few seconds and then taking the time to slowly relax them.
- Beginning at the top of your body, you can start by tensing the muscles in your face. Do this by lifting your eyebrows, wrinkling your forehead, tightly closing your eyes and grimacing to clench your jaw and cheek muscles. Then at once begin to slowly relax all of these muscles.
- Then do the same process for your shoulders, arms, chest, torso, back, hips, legs and feet. Whatever areas of muscle come to mind.
Saying a word over and over again (in your head)Personally, I’ve never found the old counting sheep method helpful for getting to sleep. I feel like this is because there is too much imagery involved (I think I get caught up in trying to work out the visual details of what the sheep look like). So, applying the same principles, you can engage in a menial cognitive task to get yourself to sleep. Some people like to repeat the word ‘the’ in their minds. Others count. Whatever tickles your fancy, but supposedly it’s the commitment to repetition that’ll get you there.
Hide your clockAh, hiding your clock, simple but sweet. Maybe we’re not all like this but I sometimes find it difficult to refrain from checking out the time of night. How long you’ve been awake. How many nocturnal hours you’ve got left to sleep. How many sleep cycles you’ll get in the remaining hours. All very stressful. Leave your phone to charge in another room and turn that bedside clock to face the other direction––we don’t want to scare sleep away, she can be very timid.
Sleep can affect everythingNot only productivity and daytime fatigue levels. Sleep is also thought to be implicated in loads of other components of wellbeing, including (but not limited to) weight management, mental health, experience of chronic pain, your immune system and even eyesight. Everything! So don’t brush it off. Sleep well to keep well, my friends.
How to have a night out in the city, without the hangover
Social salsa dancingIf you’re wanting to move, shake and groove, but not in a boozy club setting, head along to a salsa meet-up at venues all around the city. Many are free and unstructured, however if you’re looking to improve your dancing, others offer classes for as little as $10.
Join a life drawing classFor something a little outside of the box, what’s more exhilarating than drawing a real-life nude person? Here’s a list of Timeout’s top 5 life drawing classes in Sydney, ranging from $10- $50 a class.
Visit a galleryFor the art fans among us, you’re spoilt for choice. Head along to some of Sydney’s best galleries to enjoy talks, documentary screenings, exhibitions, live music and more. The Art Gallery of NSW Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) Aboriginal Art Galleries
Book a food tourSydney is home to a few of the world’s best restaurants, and with so many great places to choose from, why stop at just one? Join one of these food tours or create your own! Taste Tours Gourmet Safaris
Watch a movie at an old picture theatreGrab a popcorn and choc-top and sit back to relax in a historic picture theatre. Concrete Playground have come up with a list of the 10 best boutique cinemas around Sydney.
Night marketsThere are various night markets all around the city, selling anything from international cuisine to homemade crafts. Explore ChinaTown night markets, Chatswood Mall Market, Liverpool Night Markets or head to Aussie Night Market’s Facebook Page to find out when and where the next one is held.
Twilight sailing and dinner cruisesGetting out on the harbour is an unforgettable way to experience Sydney, from city lights to moonlight ripple reflections, a boat cruise is anyone’s holiday highlight. Book a sail through Sydney By Sail or browse through the deals at Viator for night dinner cruises.
Go to the theatre, darlingWhere do we even start? Timeout Sydney has all the info on up-and-coming shows and tickets.
Head along to a live gigOf course there’s more to live music than the iconic Opera House. Sydney is scattered with venues that include hidden bars and underground sound dens. There’s really something for everyone’s ears. Where To Tonight has put together a list of a few of the best live music venues around the city or get up to date with a local gig and concert guide.
Clap to some slam poetryFor the best slam events around the city, visit Sydney’s very own poetry events page.
And if you do really just want to go out for a drink, try a non-alcoholic bar crawl to find the best mocktails in SydneyHere’s our top 3 non-alcoholic drinks you must order!
- Momofuku Seiobo and their Cloudy T Totaler Earl Grey tea spiked with tea caramel
- PS40’s spiced blackstrap ginger craft soda
- Bentley Restaurant and Bar’s wattleseed and West Indian spice buttermilk
How to enjoy a hangover-free Christmas
The silly season is rapidly approaching, and for many, this means work Christmas parties, celebrations with friends, family gatherings and indulgence in food, gifts and all things jolly. As your social calendar fills up, here are some tips on how to avoid filling your glass too deep along with it.
We understand Christmas can be a stressful time, especially if you’re trying to drink less. Many of our celebrations involve drinking (often to excessive amounts) as part of the holiday spirit, and it is hard not to feel a pressure to conform to these expectations.
It’s important to have a few backup solutions to surviving a sober Christmas, and listing some advantages of taking it easy with the booze will help with your motivation. Think of how much you’ll save by not splashing out on those expensive bottles of champagne! And how nice it would be to minimise the chances of drunken confrontation with the in-laws, or saying something inappropriate to grandma over copious gingerbread cookies.
We have gathered some of the best advice around to help you continue your positive relationship with alcohol this Christmas.
To enjoy an alcohol-light Christmas, you need to have a plan
Be selective about the events you attend
Remember that you don’t have to go to every event; if there are certain celebrations that you know will make it really hard for you to feel good about your drinking goal, maybe consider skipping them. Attend the ones that will not focus so much on drinking to have a good time.
Take your favourite non alcoholic drinks to the party with you, like a bottle of soda and a lime or a few ginger beers. This way you’re not missing out on drinking altogether and it may be a smart tactic to stop people asking you if you want a drink every five minutes.
Plan activities that don’t involve sitting around drinking
Have a reason and get real
Be assertive with your decision to not drink and come prepared to talk about why you have chosen not to. Some people are genuinely interested, and who knows, it may even inspire them to think about their own relationship with alcohol.
Come up with an exit strategy
If it all just gets too much and people are giving you a hard time about not drinking, or everyone’s too smashed to have a slur free conversation, just get out of there. Most of the time they will hardly remember you leaving anyway. Just give the hosts a call at a reasonable hour in the morning to thank them and explain why you felt like you needed to leave.
Focus on the love
Find the joy in spending quality time with those you love, doing the things you love!