"Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs"
M. Scott Peck
This is one of my all time favourite quotes. That mental health is described as a "process" makes so much sense to me as we are all a work in progress, we never stop learning, growing and evolving. Also the idea that good mental health is "ongoing" really resonates with me, as to maintain good mental health, it's important to 'work' at and invest in our psychological well being, the same as with physical health and fitness. Finally, I love the urgency of the phrase "at all costs".

"Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in"
Leonard Cohen
I love this quote. When a close family member was experiencing severe mental illness, I found this quote very comforting. The idea of "ringing the bells that still can ring" emphasised to me the importance of accepting the situation while also acknowledging feelings of loss. The "crack in everything" made me think that nobody's life is perfect. I love how the last phrase changes the meaning of the word "crack" from something broken to something hopeful. Even when we feel cracked and a bit broken, there is hope.

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
Nelson Mandela
I love how this quote emphasises the need for recognition for our efforts, rather than our achievements. We all have times when life is hard for us. It takes courage to ask for help.

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favourite books. Atticus's words to his daughter, Scout, show the importance of empathy in helping us understand others. I consider myself to be empathetic, compassionate and curious when working with clients. Receiving empathy can be a powerful experience for clients, particularly if they haven't experienced this before.

Thoughts are not facts
While it can feel like what our thoughts are telling us are facts, many thoughts are not facts. These thoughts which are not facts could be conclusions from past experiences which we project onto the present or they could be things we are scared about happening or they could be things other people have told us in the past or they could be generalisations. The first step to challenge these unhelpful thoughts is to notice what they are saying. Thoughts tend to be repetitive so noticing familiar unhelpful thoughts and their triggers can be helpful to turn down these thoughts. When we give less energy to unhelpful thoughts, they have less power over us.

I am not my thoughts
The idea that we are not our thoughts comes from mindfulness. To really take on board that thoughts are just a part of us is a powerful concept. Tuning into our feelings, behaviour, relationships and physiological reactions can help gain a broader perspective about our experience. This phrase can be very helpful managing self criticism and negative thought patterns. Often it's not easy to turn down our thoughts but with practice we can improve our ability to do this. Like flexing a muscle we need to practise something in order to get better at it.

Bring yourself back to the present moment
This is another simple but powerful concept, which comes from mindfulness and meditation. This idea acknowledges that we can't change the past and we can't control the future. Grounding techniques can help us be present in the here and now. By paying attention to what we can hear, see, touch, smell and taste in the present moment we can let go of the past and future. Often I can be so busy in my head that I'm unaware of peripheral noises until I focus my attention on them. Grounding techniques are simple but can be so effective when we use them to bring ourselves into the present moment.

Focus on your breath
Paying attention to our breath is a great way of self soothing and managing anxiety. Try putting one hand high on your chest and pressing quite firmly..then breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. Make sure the breath out is long as this helps to settle the physiological symptoms of anxiety. Often when we are anxious we take shallow and short breaths. Focusing on our breath and slowing it down is something we can control when we experience anxiety.

We need to work at our mental health, the same as we do with our physical health
No human being has 'perfect' mental health. We are all a work in progress. We are all vulnerable to emotional pain, no one is immune from this. We all have times in our lives when we experience low mood or anxiety, e.g., bereavement, childhood trauma, redundancy. Having good support networks (e.g., friends, family) and practising self care all help our mental health.

"When there is a problem, there is not something to do, there is something to know."
Louise Hay

This quote reminds me that we are always learning, throughout our lives, about ourselves, others and the world. The question I ask myself when I experience setbacks is ‘what can I learn from this?’ There is always something to learn or a truth to be faced. Often people, myself included, can get locked into the idea that we need to ‘fix’ a problem by jumping into ‘doing mode’. This doesn’t help the issue, especially when the issue is based around difficult feelings e.g., sadness, overwhelm, pain, fear. In fact, getting into ‘doing mode’ when we experience feelings such as stress can actually make us more exhausted, leading to burnout. What can be helpful to know is that by sitting with and being compassionate to our feelings, however painful they are, we are addressing the root of the issue and these feelings will pass.

“The feeling of being valuable is a cornerstone of self-discipline because when you consider yourself valuable you will take care of yourself- including things like using your time well. In this way, self-discipline is self-caring”.
M Scott Peck

I like the idea that discipline is self care as this reinforces the fact that self care requires work, dedication and is ongoing. Self care doesn’t mean that we are ‘selfish’, quite the opposite, valuing our needs and feelings means that we have the discipline to put in place firm boundaries for ourselves and others. Valuing our needs also means that we are being honest with ourselves. Discipline doesn’t mean punishing yourself, rather it means prioritising your long term interests, over short term gratification.

“Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the making of action in spite of fear, the moving out against the resistance engendered by fear into the unknown and into the future.”
M Scott Peck

Therapy can be difficult and painful, it’s like an onion, peeling off the layers to find the patterns, the explanations, the hurts and ultimately the truth of your experience. While it can be challenging to engage in this process, it can also be rewarding and healing. Decisions to explore past hurts and blocks are only taken if the client feels ready and this is something they would like to explore. Therapy is a process that takes time, rather than a one off event. It takes courage to sit with painful feelings.

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind”
Caroline Flack

Being kind to others means not judging them and allowing them to be different to us. Often we don’t know the whole story regarding the behaviour, history or motives of others, so we make assumptions.

First and foremost, though, being kind and compassionate to ourselves is a fundamental part of well-being. In life the most important relationship is with ourselves; we have to listen 24/7 to the narrative inside our heads, so making this narrative compassionate, understanding and forgiving towards ourselves promotes positive mental health.

“When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect towards others.”
Dalai Lama

Practising gratitude improves well-being and promotes positivity towards self and others. Try writing 3 things you are grateful for each day - you could do the list on your phone, in your journal or do it with a loved one. Focus in on the details of your experience and be specific e.g., I’m grateful for the warmth of sunlight on my face. Intentionally focusing our attention and energy on things we are grateful for boosts our sense of autonomy. While negative thoughts, at times, can feel very loud in our heads, by consciously, with discipline, directing our attention to what we are grateful for, we can improve our mental health.

“Let go of the need to control the outcome. Trust the process. Trust your intuition. Trust yourself.”

Sometimes we can become very invested in a future outcome, thinking ‘if that happens, my life will be happier, better..” but these thoughts are not helpful! Letting go of the outcome frees us up to be in the present moment. We cannot control the future. Seeking glory or success is rewarding only temporarily, it does not sustain well-being. Investing in the trappings of success leads to vanity and comparison with others. It involves ego. Valuing that you worked hard and did yourself proud, whatever the outcome, is sustaining in the long run. I like the Buddhist idea of spending months creating intricate pictures using sand, only to blow the picture away in a symbolic ceremony. Blowing the sand away is a reminder of the impermanent and intransient nature of life.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Reinhold Niebuhr

Separating what we can control and what we can’t control is very important to good mental health. We cannot control or change the opinions or behaviour of others. We cannot control the future. But we can control our thoughts and feelings and how we react to them. When we feel anxious or overwhelmed a good exercise is to write down what we can control and what we can’t control and focus on the former.

“You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves”
From Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

This quote is an extract from the poem Wild Geese. I like the idea of intuitively connecting with what feels right for your body, to align the needs of mind and body. So often we can be living inside our heads, that we don’t stop to make attention to our physiological symptoms e.g., headache, tiredness, anxiety, tension in our shoulders. Listening to our bodies and identifying and naming our feelings can help settle these feelings. Feelings are in our bodies and listening to them can help us find the right path for us. Settling these feelings can include techniques such as breathwork, grounding exercises, mindfulness and meditation.

“A lot of people think that addiction is a choice. A lot of people think it's a matter of will. That has not been my experience. I don't find it to have anything to do with strength.”
Matthew Perry

There are many risk factors to explain why someone develops an addiction e.g., genetic predisposition, traumatic life events and tolerance to a substance building up over time. I agree with Matthew Perry that recovery from an addiction does not necessarily involve will power. Rather I think that knowledge, discipline and practical strategies can help recovery from an addiction. Knowledge could include understanding about the powerful physiology of the addicted brain and recognising that the addicted brain is trying to con you with un-truths in order to get its ‘dopamine hit’ e.g., ‘I’ll stop tomorrow’; this is a con! Discipline also plays a part in recovery in terms of doing what’s right for you in the long term, rather than prioritising short term gratification. Equally, practical strategies are needed. For example being able to sit with difficult feelings, e.g.,sadness, using mindfulness or breathwork. Or having some distraction strategies e.g., doing exercise, phoning a friend, in order to manage cravings.

“This too shall pass”
Persian proverb

This quote is such a powerful mantra. When we experience painful, overwhelming feelings, whether they are sadness, fear or anger, saying this proverb reminds us that feelings do pass. The quote also emphasises the intransient nature of life, reminding us not to get too attached or invested in things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. I love the simplicity and calming nature of this quote.

“If you can quit for a day, you can quit for a lifetime.”
Benjamin Alire Sáenz

This quote reminds me of the ‘one day at a time’ phrase used by Alcoholics Anonymous in their 12-step recovery programme. I think it’s a simple yet powerful idea, which is helpful to anyone feeling overwhelmed, not just alcoholics. To focus on what you can control today can help reduce anxiety and makes stopping addictive behaviours more manageable; it reframes your attention onto the here and now.

Addictions develop over time. This means that as an addiction progresses, tolerance builds up to the substance e.g., alcohol, cocaine, gambling and more of the substance is needed to have the same effect. A lot of research has shown that addictions involve the reward centre in the brain, specifically the neurotransmitter, dopamine. This evidence suggests that people who are addicted experience ‘dopamine highs’ when taking the substance. However, for these individuals, the reward system in the brain becomes desensitised over time, resulting in a vicious cycle of addiction, which includes craving and withdrawal symptoms.

“If you have to choose between being kind and being right, choose being kind and you will always be right.”
Dalai Lama

When I work with couples, often communication can break down due to individuals perceiving that they are ‘right’ and therefore this justifies them not listening to the other person. However, this fixed, self righteous approach leads to arguments. Good communication is not about being ‘right’. Good communication is about being curious, practising active listening skills and taking responsibility for any misunderstandings or assumptions on your part by asking yourself ‘what did I do to contribute to this disagreement / misunderstanding?’.

"Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck."
Dalai Lama

I like the idea that when we experience setbacks, we should ask ourselves not ‘what did I do wrong?’ but ‘what can I learn from this?’. Using positive language, such as referring to things that go wrong as ‘setbacks’ rather than ‘failures’ is important. As the word ‘failure’ emphasises that we have somehow failed or let ourselves down, while ‘setback’ acknowledges that what has happened is unexpected and unwanted, but it’s not insurmountable. The language we use when we talk to ourselves is important. This quote suggests that setbacks can present us with opportunities to re-evaluate. What we learn from the setback may be unexpected, e.g., learning to be kind and compassionate to ourselves in the future may be an unexpected bonus.

“With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Strive to be happy”
Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Undeniably, there is currently a lot of ugliness in the world e.g., wars, terrorism, fake news, climate change, corrupt politicians, scammers...the list goes on. So it is more important than ever for good mental health and well being to have hope. Self care strategies can help us navigate feelings of overwhelm and helplessness due to what is happening in the world. Also, grounding techniques can help; as can focusing on what we can control rather than what we can't control.

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results".
Albert Einstein

Often we have negative repetitive thoughts and behaviour patterns, even though they are unhelpful and have a negative impact on our wellbeing. Therapy can help challenge and change these patterns using a variety of different techniques and strategies. Sometimes it can be helpful to revisit past experiences to understand where negative beliefs about yourself were formed. Revisiting these past experiences is also an opportunity to change these thoughts by developing compassion for the younger you. Grounding techniques can also help; as can focusing on what we can control rather than what we can't control.

“The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.”
Walt Disney, The Lion King

Painful past experiences can dictate our behaviour in the present, resulting in self destructive coping strategies e.g., addictions, eating disorders, depression, relationship/commitment issues, self harm. Facing these painful past experiences can help us let go of these unhelpful coping strategies and focusing on what we can learn from the past (e.g., it wasn’t my fault, I couldn’t have known) can help us develop a kinder, more compassionate narrative with ourselves.

"Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit"
M. Scott Peck

Negative and unhelpful thoughts or behaviours can block us from achieving our potential and from being content. Facing these self destructive thoughts and behaviours can help us see where they came from. This is not an easy process but it can help us become kinder and more compassionate to ourselves. If we don't face our demons, they can lead to addictions, self harm, depression and suicidal thoughts.

"The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers".
M. Scott Peck

Therapy is not an easy process. It takes courage to face painful and vulnerable feelings. I like this quote as it emphasises how discomfort can be a catalyst for change and healing.

“The biggest part of healing or making ourselves whole is to accept all of ourselves, all the many parts of ourselves”
Louise Hay

I like this quote as sometimes during therapy it becomes clear that part of the self has been ‘compartmentalised’ or split off from the main self. This fragmenting of the self is the result of trauma, often in childhood, when dissociating from reality would have been an essential and ‘clever’ thing to do, to protect yourself from pain. However, this splitting off will cause problems in later life as the self is not fully integrated, resulting in issues such as addictions and self destructive behaviour. The split off part of us will often be the traumatised, vulnerable self. Accepting and reconnecting to this vulnerable part of us during therapy aids healing and allows our ‘grounded’, integrated self to be in the ‘driving seat’ for our behaviour. When our sense of self is fully integrated, we are much more likely to make healthy decisions for ourselves, engaging proactively in self care and pursuing healthy, sustaining activities and relationships.

“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die”
Malachy McCourt

Harbouring resentment is like punching yourself in the face and expecting somebody else to feel the pain. Episodes of anger or frustration which have a cyclical, stuck feel, could indicate deep rooted resentment. This could be from a past hurt/ trauma or an unresolved grudge. Such resentment benefits no one; in fact it damages the person who is experiencing this feeling. Holding on to deep-rooted resentment is a form of self harm. Therapy can help understand the pay offs of this repetitive pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Sometimes such behaviour patterns may have historically been used to keep ourselves safe, but are damaging to us (and our relationships) in the present.

“The biggest part of healing or making ourselves whole is to accept all of ourselves, all the many parts of ourselves” Louise Hay