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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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. Woman of Substances is available as a special offer here. The author’s blog is here.
How to be okay with being alone
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – French scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal.Being alone doesn’t mean you are lonely. Most of us are constantly surrounded by people, whether you live in an urban environment or if you’re in a relationship, work at a social company, or exist in the digital world of social media. But sometimes we crave time away from everyone, or we may end up in a situation where we are involuntarily spending a lot more time on our own – whether that’s because of a breakup or moving to a new city. It is imperative to learn how to enjoy your own company because like it or not, you’re stuck with yourself for the rest of your life. When you start to feel lonely, it can help to think about all the things you can do with no one else around. You can talk to yourself, you can watch a sad movie and sob your heart out, you can dance in the kitchen naked, you can be as messy and as gross as you like and no one will be there to judge you!
Get to know yourselfPsychologist and author Wayne Dyer says, “You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.” You might find out that you like yourself a lot. If not, you’ll know why, and by being alone, you give yourself the opportunity to work on it. How can you really know yourself if you have never really spent time with yourself? How can you know how YOU will react to something, how YOU would spend your day, how YOU would process a big decision without the influence and perspective of someone else?
Do things YOU love doingGo for a surf, practice yoga, take a long walk, go camping alone, swim in the ocean or cook a delicious meal. Traveling and exploring by yourself, for instance, is one of the best things you can do alone and can be the most rewarding for personal growth. You’re put into situations where you cannot rely on anyone else and you may find yourself out of your comfort zone, or experiencing things you thought you never would without anyone else’s support or opinion or mood to influence your experience. Solitude is also the best time to get things done. You can be the most productive on your own with no distractions, so if you have a project you’ve been wanting to start on, or an idea brewing in the back of your mind, being alone is the perfect time to work on it!
Have a creative projectCreativity is often found in the mists of solitude. Ideas for creative personal projects include:
- writing music;
- planting a veggie garden;
- building furniture;
- knitting or crocheting a throw or scarf;
- making scented candles;
It’s okay to be reflective and even sad when aloneIt is often a perfect time to be alone when you’re in a mood, as we tend to get irritated and take out how we’re feeling on others. An article on Lifehacker, Why Bad Moods are Good For You, explains that bad moods are actually an essential part of the normal range of moods we regularly experience. “We should recognise they are normal, and even a useful and adaptive part of being human, helping us cope with many everyday situations and challenges. Psychologists who study how our feelings and behaviours have evolved over time maintain all our affective states (such as moods and emotions) have a useful role: they alert us to states of the world we need to respond to.” Reflection is vital for us to be able learn from the past. If we don’t reflect on something negative that happened, we can’t know how to change it, and if we don’t reflect on something great that happened, we are not as satisfied or as grateful as we probably should be. Reflection also allows you to welcome new ideas and thoughts and is critical for self-improvement.
Take a break from social mediaSocial media often feeds us this world where everyone is living a ‘perfect’ life, constantly having fun, going out, being social and traveling the world. It’s amazing to be inspired and motivated by these beautiful photos and posts, but it can have you comparing your life to everyone else’s. You may suffer from serious FOMO (fear of missing out) when you see your friends constantly socialising, but the reality is they need their down time too. You can’t say yes to everything and be surrounded by people 24/7, or you won’t have time to reflect, adjust and grow.
Give yourself transition timeWhether you have just had a break up and separated from an ex, moved into a new place by yourself, moved to a new city, a new job or you have come home from a big, life changing adventure, you need to give yourself time to adjust to a new environment, and allow yourself time to grieve the loss of a past time.
Acknowledge the times you crave your own spaceTry to be more aware of the times you are getting irritated with someone or a situation, as this could be a sign you just need to be with you for a little while. Plan something to do alone, whether that is just going out for a walk or sitting in a park reading a good book. It could simply be taking a bath and locking the world out for a bit of breathing space. Acknowledging this feeling of wanting some ‘you’ time is vital to be able to step back from a situation and gain some perspective.
The top six questions about drinking and health answered
From alcohol’s effect on fertility, to how long your liver takes to recover
Gastroenterologist Professor Weltman, helps us answer specific health questions asked by our community on Daybreak.
1. How long does it take for your liver to start to recover once you stop or cut down drinking?
Professor Weltman, Head of the Gastroenterology and Hepatology department at Nepean Hospital, NSW, says the recovery is variable as it depends on the individual.
“Alcohol does not work the same on everyone, so to start off with, it is best to give it 6–12 months before you’re able to see what kind of reversibility is there.”
Consensus in clinical research suggests that the liver is the only organ in the body that is able to regenerate by replacing damaged tissue with new cells, but it depends on the length of time the individual has been drinking and each individual is entirely different. Complications can develop after 5–10 years, though it more commonly takes 20–30 years.
Complications of liver disease occur when regeneration is either incomplete or prevented by progressive development of scar tissue within the liver. This happens when a damaging agent like alcohol continues to attack the liver and prevents complete regeneration. Once scar tissue has developed it is very difficult to reverse that process.
2. What impact does alcohol have on fertility for males?
It’s an inconvenient truth that heavy alcohol use reduces men’s fertility; it can cause impotence, reduce libido and affect sperm quality.
A recent study of couples undergoing assisted reproductive treatment looked at male and female alcohol consumption in the year prior to treatment, as well as during treatment. It found both male and female alcohol consumption decreased the chance of a healthy baby and increased the risk of miscarriage.
Although the scientific evidence about how low to moderate drinking affects a man’s fertility isn’t clear, the National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that men abide by the safe drinking guidelines and women don’t drink at all during this period.
3. What impact does alcohol have on fertility for females?
For women, heavy drinking also affects fertility, increasing the length of time it takes to get pregnant and reducing the chances of having a healthy baby.
The National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines also say that:
- For healthy women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.
- Heavy drinking before pregnancy is also known to affect women’s health. Women who consume large amounts of alcohol (seven or more drinks a week or more than three drinks on one occasion) are more likely to have heavy or irregular periods and take longer to get pregnant.
- For women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option. For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.
4. What are the effects of alcohol on the brain?
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says the short term effects of drinking alcohol can include: difficulty walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slowed reaction times and impaired memory. Some of these impairments are detectable after only one or two drinks and quickly resolve when drinking stops. On the other hand, a person who drinks heavily over a long period of time may have brain deficits that persist well after he or she stops consuming alcohol.
“We do know that heavy drinking may have extensive and far–reaching effects on the brain, ranging from simple ‘slips’ in memory to permanent and debilitating conditions.”
A number of factors influence how and to what extent alcohol affects the brain, including:
- How much and how often a person drinks;
- The age at which he or she first began drinking, and how long he or she has been drinking;
- The person’s age, level of education, gender, genetic background, and family history;
- Whether he or she is at risk as a result of prenatal alcohol exposure; and
- His or her general health status.
5. What does alcohol do to your body after the age of 40?
Professor Weltman says alcohol does not really affect people differently at any age other than babies. It is more the fact that if people have been drinking heavily since they were young, they therefore are more likely to develop the consequences.
“Drinking heavily for a long period of time can cause people to have liver damage, fibrosis scarring, pancreas damage and damage to the brain, like an early cognitive disfunction that is similar to dementia.
“Your coordination can become unsteady and the heart’s rhythm can have disturbances as well as weakening of the heart muscle. Men specifically can develop testicular atrophy, enlarged breasts and reduced sexual function.
“Women can develop osteoporosis, bone loss and muscle loss. It is common for women to see nerve ending problems and damage where they loose sensation in hands and feet.”
6. What are the side effects of medications like Antabuse/Disulfiram, Campral/Acamprosate?
Professor Weltman says Disulfiram only has side effects when mixed with alcohol.
“The concept of the drug stems back from the 1960s: you either don’t take the drug or don’t drink, because when mixed, the reaction with alcohol causes people to become very unwell.
“Campral doesn’t have any side effects and works as a stimulater for the nerve transmitters in the brain to instead reduce the desire to drink.”
According to NPS MedicineWise, these medications are suitable as a long-term treatment for patients with alcohol dependance and should only be used in conjunction with a comprehensive treatment plan.
Pharmacotherapy is generally used for people with more severe behaviours. In Australia, there are three drugs currently approved − oral Naltrexone, Acamprosate and Disulfiram. NSP Medicine Wise have a different view on the side affects of the drugs, outlined below:
Naltrexone is recommended for patients aiming to cut down their alcohol intake who do not have severe liver disease or an ongoing need for opioids.
EFFECTS: Headache, nausea, lethargy and dysphoria.
Acamprosate is recommended for those who have achieved and wish to maintain abstinence.
EFFECTS: The most common adverse event is transient diarrhoea.
Disulfiram is no longer considered first-line treatment due to difficulties with compliance and toxicity.
EFFECTS: Drinking alcohol within two weeks of taking disulfiram results in the accumulation of acetaldehyde in the blood. This causes unpleasant effects such as sweating, headache, dyspnoea, flushing, sympathetic overactivity, palpitations, nausea and vomiting.
* To find the right treatment for you, speak to your GP and head to the site for more information on medication-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence.
Ten tips to help you understand your drinking limit
How to talk about your emotions
We interview Mr. Perfect about the generational shift around male communication and why having a society that’s open to emotional freedom for men is so important.
You’re told to suck it up, to be strong, to not cry because crying is for wimps.
Men don’t often open up about how they are really feeling to friends and family. Showing emotion and vulnerability has long been stigmatised as a sign of weakness. It is the stereotype of the heroic male represented in popular culture as fearless, resourceful, stoic and usually facing adversity alone. These characters tell us a lot about what is considered to be ideal male behaviour within our society.
Men should be allowed to be whoever they want to be.
Daphne Rose Kingma, author of The Men We Never Knew, has said:
“We’ve dismissed men as the feelingless gender — we’ve given up on them. Because of the way boys are socialised, their ability to deal with emotions has been systematically undermined. Men are taught, point-by-point, not to feel, not to cry, and not to find words to express themselves.”
Men are more than likely to express emotions in places where they feel safe and it is deemed acceptable by society, like a sports event. You’ll see hugging, passionate shouting, even tears of joy after a win. But you may not see other men hugging or tearing up in another circumstance, because they don’t feel as comfortable or as open to do so. It is often the same case when alcohol is involved. Men seem to open up after (many) drinks, they can speak honestly from their heart and it’s okay because they ‘were drunk and have an excuse’.
But men shouldn’t have to have an excuse to lean back on for speaking their truth.
As Psychology Today says, “men who deviate from the traditional masculine norm by being emotionally expressive and talking about their fears are often judged as being poorly adjusted.”
When upset, women are more likely to express their feelings directly, and to seek the support of friends and family, whereas men might hide their emotions or withdraw. The problem is that withdrawing is very dangerous and can lead to serious mental health repercussions.
The restriction of emotional expression in many men’s lives can lead to:
- A greater sense of isolation;
- Less support being available from loved ones;
- Health issues, due to carrying chronic tension in the body and other bad coping strategies;
- Relationship difficulties due to an inability to resolve emotional conflicts and/or a perceived lack of ability to be intimate;
- Psychological problems such as depression, insomnia and anxiety.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australian men aged 14–44 years old.
Yet, as a young woman in 2017, I think the toughest of all men are those who stand up for what they believe is right, even in the face of other men. Men who show their emotions and ask for help when they need it, and who open their heart to vulnerability.
I’m not the only one.
Mr. Perfect, founded by Terry Cornick, is a grassroots mental health support network with a vision to transform men’s mental health by making it a comfortable discussion for all. It is a sarcastic nod to the male approach to mental health.
Mr. Perfect is a metaphor for what the world expects us to be. It is the mask we wear.
Mr. Perfect started as an non-profit organisation to try and start these conversations that were lacking in male societies. As well as corporate talks, a blog and a few other projects, Terry also runs a monthly Meet Up in Sydney where anyone can come for an informal social barbecue, have a chance to speak to other people in the same boat, and listen to talks from doctors, psychologists and other organisations. The Meet Ups are inclusive to anyone whether it be successful men, fathers to be, students or older guys.
“I often speak to doctors who say they feel very hopeless and do not know what to do when men come in with mental health concerns. They either give you a pamphlet for an organisation or a prescription for medication.”
“If it’s not clinical, you’re not told about it.”
Terry says there is such a stigma around getting help because we have been conditioned to believe that seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist, or a ‘shrink’ means you’re ‘damaged’.
“Not only that, but there’s also the age-old thing of being masculine and being a man, and we all propagate that: both men and women. We assume this is what we need to be and people think,
“Your wife’s allowed to show that emotion so that’s fine, but a guy just cant do it.”
“Whether it be tiny set backs or big set backs, you were expected to come home after being a robot for eight hours at work and not talk about anything and just get on with it. You would also excuse traits and behaviours in your mates and just brush it off as, ‘Oh, that’s just [Jimmy] acting out,’ and you laugh about it and that’s the end of it. There was never scratching below that surface.”
Mr. Perfect aims to normalise that conversation.
“Once guys start and open up just a little bit, there’s no stopping them. Often times they won’t stop and they will talk so much they will apologise to me for telling their story because they have probably not told anyone that for five years, or only their doctor.”
So, for someone to just say, “I know what you’re talking about mate,” or, “you’re not alone,” that’s the first step.
“My dad was alcohol dependent, and my perception of that growing up was thinking he was just an asshole. He was told he would die if he kept drinking 20 years ago, and when he kept drinking, that was it for me. I was never once told or ever thought, until I started getting help myself, that maybe something was going on in his head that caused him to drink. I can’t really put my finger on it and I’ll probably never know why, but alcohol is the best way for people to do that, to block it out temporarily.”
Terry says he has friends who will use alcohol as their crutch, so if they have a really bad day at work or they’re in a bad mood, their first reaction is to go have a pint. Then that leads to four pints, which leads to staying out until midnight and then onto a club, and before you know it, the next day they’re in a world of pain physically and mentally.
“When I used to not talk about things, I would have a big night and end up in an argument with my wife. That was painful to wake up the next day and go, ‘I think we argued, I don’t know what about but I know there was shouting’.
“So, where did that come from? That doesn’t come from me being a bad person. It probably comes from me being insecure and not being able to talk about my anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, whatever it was, while I was sober. It was just easier to do it while I was drunk and blame someone else.”
A generational movement is brewing
Terry says there’s a real need for all these ideas and these contemporary initiatives are the best starting point.
“There are big government groups advocating ‘awareness’, but it’s hard to know what the money is really going to. There are a lot of smaller groups, starting from very low funds who are personally trying to change things. It’s positive but it’s so difficult with no backing and we now need support from those types of authorities and the government.”
How can you help?
Terry says that the most important thing is to have a good support network of friends.
“It’s just about listening and saying, ‘I went through that as well and I’m still here, so you’re doing well just by talking about it’. If you don’t have anyone to bounce these ideas off, it can very quickly go from a very small problem in your head to the biggest problem possible.
“When I’m going though a tough time, I text some of my mates and say, ‘Just letting you know mate, if I don’t get back to you tonight it’s because I’m just having a bit of a cloudy spell’. I’ve completely normalised it and instead of shying away they will text me and say ‘here if you need, give me a buzz now, reach out, I’m here, I’ll drop everything’.”
If I see someone suffering, I’ll just send them a text and say, ‘Mate, I’ve noticed you weren’t yourself tonight. Is everything okay?’ And sometimes that can open a can of worms but at least you’ve started that.
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.”
10 Eggcellent reasons why chocolate is better than booze
What is the connection between chocolate and Easter, anyway?Delicious god of the cocoa kind, Cadbury, says Christian customs connected with Easter eggs are, to some extent, adaptations of ancient pagan practices related to spring rites. Mr. Cadbury says the egg is a symbol of ‘fertility’, ‘rebirth’ and ‘the beginning’. With the rise of Christianity in Western Europe, the church adopted many pagan customs and the egg, as a symbol of new life, came to represent the Resurrection. The first chocolate Easter eggs were made in Europe in the early 19th century.
Why you should choose chocolate over booze this Easter
1. It’s good for youExperts have found that quality dark chocolate with a high mass of cocoa (around 70% or more) is good for the heart, circulation and the brain.
2. Chocolate can be your partnerWho needs romance when you can indulge in rich goodness and surround yourself with delicious emotional support?
3. You won’t get a hangoverThat’s right. Eat all the chocolate your heart desires and don’t worry about waking up groggy or feeling sorry for yourself.
4. It fixes thingsEspecially heartbreak and PMS.
5. It’s family-friendlyUnlike alcohol, chocolate is appropriate for all occasions and kids love it. Who could blame them?
6. Chocolate doesn’t make you break outGood quality chocolate in moderation contains flavonoids which help absorb UV light and increase blood flow to your skin, making it look healthier and more radiant.
7. Naturally improve your sex lifeChocolate is an aphrodisiac that contains L-arginine, an amino acid that can be an effective natural sex enhancer. Oh, la la!
8. Boost your energy levelsThe caffeine and theobromine in chocolate mean it works as a natural pick-me-up.
9. You can eat it so many different waysYou can eat chocolate frozen in ice cream form, melted, at breakfast in chocolate chip pancakes, as a spread like Nutella, as a dessert, a pick-me-up, a sugar hit or just a little midnight snack. The list really goes on and on.
10. Chocolate helps you relaxEven the smell of chocolate increases theta brain waves, which triggers relaxation. Let us know what you like to do over the Easter break in the comments!
How to create your list
What is stopping you from living life right now?Recently we caught up with Seb Terry, who travels the world helping people tick off their 100 Things list. He is the ultimate guru when it comes to creating your list and choosing to live a more fulfilling life. Even if people do have a bucket list, not many things on it get ticked off, as day-to-day life tends to get in the way. These reasons and excuses may sound familiar: Money – “But I don’t have enough; I can’t afford it!” Failure – “I won’t be able to do it; what if I don’t win?” Commitments – “I am too busy at work; I already do too much; I have kids and a dog and a partner!” Opinions – “What would people think?” Comfort – “I have control over my life at the moment, if I change anything everything will fall out of place.” Success – “What if I really love it? What if I’m good at it and don’t want to go back to my old job?” Fear – “I don’t know if I am ready/brave enough.”
Give yourself permission
Sebastian Terry says we choose to do something or to not do something and in the middle sits one word; permission.The first step in deciding to write or start ticking off the things on your list is to give yourself permission. You’re the only one with the power to allow yourself to think about what you really want to achieve in your life.
ChooseWhen we’re young we know what we want; we would be able to sit down and write an endless list with no concerns about how to make it happen or whether it’s realistic or not. But we get older and we’re told what to do and how to think by other people. Things are laid out for us by others. By living your own truth you are choosing to empower yourself.
GrowIn order to grow, we have to step out of our comfort zone. Creating and ticking off your list allows you to shape your identity, or redefine your purpose on this earth and revisit your values that may have been shadowed or buried in a pile of work and responsibilities.
AskYou will never know an answer until you ask and most of the time, you have nothing to lose by asking. Asking if someone wants to join you in your quest, asking for the time off work, asking if someone needs a house sitter in the Canadian Rockies, asking if anyone has a workshop you could rent to start your craft. Passion inspires passion. People generally want to help other people achieve their goals.
Start writingWhat is something you care about so much that you don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks? Write it down. You just need to know why you don’t need to know how just yet, the how will come. It’s the idea of manifestation = action, know what you want, put it out there by thinking about it, talking about it and looking into it. Before you know it, that dream will start taking shape.
Want to be a part of Hello Sunday Morning’s Experiments Challenge? Join us by ticking something off your list, sharing on social media and tagging #hellosundaymorning #experimentschallenge
How to make the best smoothies
How to make Hello Sunday Morning’s favourite smoothies
Guilt-free Salted Caramel1x large frozen banana Nut milk of your choice (almond, cashew, coconut) 2x dates (keep soaked in water overnight so they’re easier to blend) Pinch of sea salt Dash of maple syrup (for the sweet-toothed) Cocoa nibs to serve on top
Espresso Your Feelings1x large frozen banana Nut milk of your choice 1x shot of espresso 1 teaspoon of coconut sugar (low GI)
Avocardio WorkoutHalf an avocado Coconut water or Bickford’s ‘Cloudy Apple Juice’ Fresh pineapple Handful of kale
I’m berry well, thank youLarge handful of frozen or fresh berries of your choice Pinch of coconut sugar Nut milk of your choice Vanilla protein powder 2x tablespoons of coconut yoghurt
Smooth Operator2x tablespoons of granola 2x soaked dates 1x large frozen banana or mango Nut milk of your choice Sprinkle of maca powder
Not into smoothies as much as us?We asked Hello Sunday Morning’s community what their favourite go-to drink was, and compiled an excellent list. Try these non-alcoholic drinks if you’re after ideas for ordering drinks out, hosting an event, or just want to wind down one afternoon with a refreshing beverage.
- Cranberry juice, blood orange juice, lime, soda, and fruit pieces.
- Quarter of a glass of apple juice, fill up the rest with Indian tonic water, throw in a couple of mint leaves
- Soda, lime, and bitters
- Soda water, a spoon of maple syrup, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of cayenne
- Lemonade, pineapple juice and a splash of lime cordial
- Ginger beer, ice and lots of mint leaves
How to meditate for a clear mind
- 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
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
How to be empathetic
Put your view to the side for a minuteIt’s impossible to be empathetic when you’re judging a person’s situation based on your own values, opinions, morals or beliefs. So rather than evaluate the situation, understand it. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to agree with the person, or even accept their actions or decisions. But for you to connect with someone – and that’s what it is all about: connection- you need to be able to put aside your criticism and not focus on how to ‘fix’ things. For example, a mother might tell her work colleagues that she is going to stop drinking as she feels that it is getting out of her control. She asks for their support when it comes to Friday night after-work drinks. A judgemental thought may be to think of the mother badly for having issues with alcohol because she’s got young children to care for. This will not allow the colleague to feel empathy but instead analyse, criticise and perhaps even alienate her. This, in turn, would short-circuit the ability to create the trust needed for open communication and constructive change.
Hearing is through the ears, but listening is through the mind.Always try to find the truth in what someone is telling you. Being an ‘active’ listener means someone who is able to see the deeper meaning and ask open-ended questions to enable an honest conversation. When you’re the speaker, it’s best to show–not tell–people to allow them to read into what you’re saying. Do this by giving context to what you’re talking about, telling stories and anecdotes or painting a picture for the listener.
Wear their shoesEmpathy is all about resonating with what is going on in the subjective world of another. Allow yourself to really feel what others are feeling. You could ask yourself, “what would I do if I were that person in that situation?” Only from stepping into someone else’s position can you truly begin to understand where they may be coming from.
Get a little perspectiveThe issue may not seem important to you. But it could mean the world to them. Delving into shared human values is a way to communicate by breaking through the contexts and cultures of diverse groups of people. For example, let’s look at the struggle to break a habit- whether that be alcohol, smoking, eating unhealthily, or even something that may not seem very serious. We have all wanted to break a habit at some point in our lives and can always relate to each other in our shared experiences. Another example may be losing a loved one. From a pet to a close family member, partner or friend, the shared human value of grieving is powerful and can also be used as a tool for connection and perspective.
It takes practiceLike anything in life that is hard yet worthwhile, it takes practice and it takes effort. Some people may even need to work harder than others to feel empathy, or it may come as a natural ability. You may not be great at it at the start, but as you learn to develop these skills and allow yourself to put down your shield and hold a trusted space for someone to open up, it’s vital for healing.
Have empathy for yourselfThe most important thing is to be empathetic to yourself. Be kind to yourself first, as this allows and teaches you to be kind to others.
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
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 spontaneousMarie 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 outsideIt’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 sleepWe 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 loveThere 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