Overthinking and Mental Wellbeing

Overthinking and Mental Wellbeing

I’m sure many of you saw that it was World Mental Health Awareness Day this week, and I wanted to share some thoughts that came up for me that day. Three different things happened, and it got me reflecting on how being in the flow could help with them all…grab a coffee, I’m heading into a ‘nudge’ conversation!

It’s all in a nudge…

It all started with receiving an email from an old family friend asking me if my ‘nudges’ were linked in any way to the work of the behavioural economist, Richard Thaler, who has just been awarded the 2017 Nobel prize in economic sciences. My friend’s timing was spooky as I had just seen that news in the Economist the previous night, which had made me think about way back when I started nudgeme in 2008.

I replied saying that ‘no’ my nudges are not connected. I set up nudgeme just before Thaler’s Nudge book came out the same year, and explained I’d had friends/colleagues at the time asking me a similar thing.

nudgeme for mental wellbeing…

Interestingly, I’d been planning to send out another nudge, and had been pondering all morning the link between it being World Mental Health Awareness Day, and the potential for linking my nudging around thoughts and mental wellbeing to the behavioural economics that Thaler’s pioneered.

That same day, the news then reported on low productivity levels, and the impact that has as a key driver on economic growth and the health of our economy! You see where I’m going with this…? I can immediately see the link between my work and the bigger economic picture, not least in the world of work and impact of workplace stress on productivity!!

Pointing people in a different direction…

Thing is, I’d also just been reading the news articles on Mental Health day, and so found myself sharing the following in my reply to my friend. Much as I’m all for raising greater awareness of mental health, and am very pro the “let’s get talking more” stance being championed by the Royals, for instance, I feel that this is still being innocently approached from an ‘outside in’ misunderstanding.

As you’ll know from my nudges, I’m all about pointing people in a different direction – ie, more to where an understanding of where our experience comes from in the first place, and the nature of thought. When I say ‘outside in’ misunderstanding, I mean the common belief that our experience comes from things that happen to us/outside us, rather than the simple fact that we’re all only ever experiencing the feeling of our own thinking in the moment and then innocently making up meanings about that.

It’s all in the flow…

As you might recall from my nudge about being in the flow, I see things very differently. That is, when we’re coming from that ‘flow’ feeling, when we have less on our mind, we’re tapping into our own innate wisdom, intelligence, knowing energy, creativity (call it what you will) that’s available to us at all times inside us. And that when people see that, it becomes much easier to quieten down their own ‘personal thinking’.

So, what am I saying? Let’s say, you cut your finger, you don’t spend all your time checking that it’s healed, you just know that it eventually will. You don’t spend hours worrying about the ‘how’ or mechanics behind that, you just see later that the cut has gone away.

Innate potential for wellbeing…

These days, my understanding is that our mind has the same innate capacity.

That thoughts are in fact more ‘neutral’ than they can seem, and, much like a cut finger, or even, say, the weather, thoughts come and go, and come and go. Fresh thought is always coming through in the moment, regardless of anything else going on around us. And it’s the simply knowing that, which leads to greater sense of wellbeing. Thus, to get caught up in the content of our thoughts, and then worry about finding ways or strategies to deal with them, entirely misses that point!

Personal thinking versus impersonal mind…

Interestingly, my friend responded saying that she really liked my reference to ‘the brain mending’, as she put it, which offers another interesting perspective! I guess the direction I’m pointing people towards has less to do with the brain (personal thinking as I refer to it), and more to the mind where’s there’s a never ending supply of fresh thought, which, I see, as our natural nature, innate wisdom, simply part of the system, and always working for everyone, regardless of their own personal thoughts. Put another way, it’s a bit like our individual brain is the personal computer, the mind would be the like plugging into the internet!!

Going with the flow evening…

I’m in the process of inviting a few people who are keen to live more ‘in the flow’ to an informal evening event I’m currently arranging. We’re getting together to have a conversation on ways to do that, and will be delving deeper into this ‘understanding’ then. So, if you have a tendency to over think, or would like to experience more peace of mind, do get in touch.

Meanwhile, I’d be fascinated to hear what comes up for you as you’ve been reading this nudge. My hope is that some of it resonates, and/or begins to percolate, even if it makes no sense at all in the moment! Try it out for yourself. Next time you’re getting caught up in your thoughts, try letting them go for a while, and see what fresh thinking comes through when you have less on your mind. For someone who has tended to live a lot in their thoughts, I can tell you, life gets so much better when I view them this way!


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My Pa and some Musings

My Pa and some Musings

Yesterday, 8 August, is my father’s birthday, and I woke up today wanting to share some thoughts – hence this long overdue nudgeme news.

As some of you will know my Pa died suddenly 5 years ago, the day before his birthday. So why haven’t I written yesterday ‘was’ his birthday, or perhaps said my ‘late’ father’s birthday?

New word ‘is-ness‘ = present tense

Well, firstly, it struck me this morning how strange the use of the word late is to describe a person who has died (or lost for that matter…) especially given my Pa was never late for anything. And secondly, this word ‘is-ness‘ came to mind. It is still my Pa’s birthday, and he is always very much with me any time I think of him in the present.

Pa brought this idea of present tense home to me after my Nan died, when he suggested we change the wording on her headstone. We’d originally said my Nan was much loved by all who ‘knew’ her, and we changed it to much loved by all who ‘know’ her, which far better reflects how we all feel.

Then there’s a lovely phrase Pa used to say that speaks to this present is-ness. “In the garden of happy memories, no one ever really leaves you”. In recent months I’ve come to see how right that feels more and more. Because as long as I have the ability to think, there’s a never ending supply of lovely thoughts about Pa.

I know some people might feel sad when they think of people who have died, but for me this idea of is-ness gives me great comfort. It makes me focus less on a feeling of physical separation and more on the idea that my Pa is only ever a thought away.

Trawl for Gold

That also brings to mind why I named my blog “Trawl for Gold on the River” – on the River because that’s where I live, and Trawl for Gold after another of Pa’s expressions to end each day looking on the bright side and for the best in people. A version of what’s become well known these days with the focus on the word gratitude as a means for improving people’s mental wellbeing.  It is said it is impossible to have a bad or stressful thought at the same time as thinking about what you’re grateful for.

I don’t know if that’s true for everyone, but I do know that thoughts create feelings, and as soon as I’m feeling out of sorts, it’s a good indication that my thinking has gone off track. A sign to not take anything too seriously, wait for the moment to pass, and for those inevitable better thoughts to flow once more. Because that’s the nature of the system, thoughts come and go and come and go, and seeing that makes for a much easier life. And that doesn’t mean to say difficult or sad things don’t happen, of course they do, but I do get to choose where I put my attention. So, rather than hold onto thoughts that appear to cause my frustration or upset…to Trawl for the Golden thoughts, which in my experience, is a much kinder and happier way to live.

Thanks for reading my musings. I’d love to hear how they resonate with you.

I’ll be sharing more on my musings today in some conversations I’m planning later in September. If you’d like to join one, either as part of a group or one to one, then do drop me an email. In the meantime, consider yourself nudged until the next time, and have a lovely summer.

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Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! How’s it going two weeks in?

I’m delighted to report that after opting to join in on ‘Dry January’ with a friend, I’m doing surprisingly well, and have become quite the expert in non-alcoholic drinks!?

As you might recall, I’m no big fan of New Year’s resolutions. Instead, my nudge today is about some ways to have a different conversation with yourself starting off this New Year.

Set intentions based on your ‘why’ not your what or how

So what does that mean? Instead of focusing on the same old resolutions that can crop up year after year – lose weight, get fit, change jobs, get a job, work less, change habits, or ‘should-ing’ yourself into doing things that you feel you ought to, just STOP for a minute and ask yourself “WHY am I wanting to change or do any of those things?” If the answer is immediately forthcoming and, more importantly, makes you feel good at the thought, go for it. But if not, dig a little deeper and spend some time thinking about the bigger picture, and what you’d really like this year to be about. The bigger your ‘why’ for doing anything, the more likely it is you’ll make it happen.

Think bigger perspective

Forget about lack of time or money for a minute (hint, it’s rarely about resources and more about being resourceful…), and think about how you’d really like your life to be this year. What is it about last year that you loved and want to experience more of? What are some of the things you’ve been meaning or wanting to do, but never quite get around to?

In the nudgers’ groups, we stick clear of setting S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) goals, and focus instead on how we want to feel, what are our important priorities, what really matters to us at the end of the day? As a client put well recently “I intend not to do stress in 2017!”

Thoughts create feelings

Talking about feelings, looking through summer pics for this newsletter immediately brought back great feelings of sunshine, swimming, good times, relaxing and no stress. And I felt this despite the fact I’m sitting on my boat staring out at cold, grey skies. I’ve said it many times before, but worth repeating, you get what you focus on.

The nature of thought

These days, my work is less about tactics and strategies, and more about helping people to gain a new understanding about the very nature of thought. I recently watched a talk by a psychiatrist called Dr Bill Pettit who I’ve mentioned in previous nudges that really resonated with me. He explained that many of the people he sees have suffered from years of depression, often on a merry-go round of medication.

Coming from the perspective that thoughts create feelings, he spends very little time on discussing their issues or problems. Instead, he starts off from the principle that they are innately healthy, that there is nothing to ‘fix’, and focuses more on the nature of thought.

He runs through a simple set of questions about what they tend to think about in any given day, such as how often they worry about things outside of their control, suffer from guilt, over analysis, unresolved grief or hold on to resentments from the past. He then asks them to rate each on a scale of 1-5 (1 meaning they spend minimum time and let such thoughts come and go, up to 5 meaning they thought about them a lot). People who scored high on the scale perhaps not surprisingly experienced lower moods and anxiety. But when they got an understanding of the nature of thought – described as experiencing the feeling of our thinking, rather than our circumstances – and that they were free to not give attention to those thoughts, things quickly started to improve.

Tapping into innate wisdom

This is part of a much bigger conversation, and not about positive thinking or trying to control your thoughts – as you’ll know that’s just about impossible! But I wanted to share this understanding as I’ve found when I start conversations with people from this perspective, people often get a greater sense of clarity and calm. The quieter their state of mind, the more space they have to access that innate wisdom in all of us, which so often occurs when we have less on our mind. People have described innate wisdom as that feeling of just being in the ‘flow’, or when a decision feels completely right, or when helpful ideas pop into your head when you least expect it, and you immediately feel more at ease. And who doesn’t want more of that!

Commit to non-negotiable ‘quiet time’

Setting aside quiet time for you is the best thing you can do, not just for yourself, but your important people around you. People often say to me “but isn’t that selfish”, or tell me that they feel guilty, and I give the same answer every time. If you’re feeling low on energy, irritable and frustrated because of never ending to do lists, or saying ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no’, how enjoyable do you think you are to be around? Not only do you suffer in the end, but it obviously has a negative impact on relationships, work colleagues, children, friends, your wellbeing. So, give up all notions of selfishness or guilt, and decide to commit to non-negotiable ‘quiet time’ for you this year – I guarantee that life gets a lot more enjoyable when you do.

Kickstart your New Year – join a free webinar for a Different Conversation

I know that time is precious and busyness can quickly set in! So, in the spirit of wanting to help as many people as possible to stay on track and follow through, I’m going to be running a free group webinar/call on Tuesday 31 January at 7-8pm UK time. I’ll be sharing more about these ideas, and will answer as many questions I can in the time allotted. If you want to keep your enthusiasm high, and nail the things you most want to this year, then do hit reply and join us.

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A Christmas nudge about communication

A Christmas nudge about communication

Just as I was mulling over what to write about for my Christmas nudge, I came across the following quote that’s always resonated with me:

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it’s taken place.” (George Bernard Shaw)

Feels like an apt quote going into the Christmas break when communications can prove harder to navigate as we rush to complete what we need to do, and the resulting stress that can so often build up.

For me, this has been exacerbated by ending the year with a broken wrist, which has led to some testing moments! That said, at the same time, it’s given me greater clarity about what makes for easier communications. Here’s what I’ve found.

Moods come and go – if you let them!

We can all go through a multitude of moods in any given day, and so often we innocently attribute them to external events going on around us. This can inevitably lead to all kinds of communication problems. If we like what’s happening we feel good, but if we don’t, then the overthinking, and resulting mis-communication that often occurs, can quickly lead to poor decision making and unhelpful actions.

Far better to view moods much as you would the weather, rather than attaching them to people or situations. This isn’t some ‘woo woo’ thinking! The proof of this is that often nothing has changed externally and yet some days you just wake up feeling better don’t you? So allow moods to come and go without much thought, and wait for a better mood to surface – which it always does. Only then communicate or take action when you’re in a better frame of mind.

A clear mind leads to fresh insights

If you’ve ever experienced struggling with a problem or decision only to find the answer comes to you when you least expect it, say, when you’re driving, showering or taking a walk, then you’ll know you had very little on your mind when the thought or solution arose.

Being in a constant state of busyness only serves to shut down that innate wisdom in all of us.

I’ve worked with some people who find it very hard to just be with themselves, and I think that plays into their stress levels. I’ve found that people who enjoy their own company, or find it easier to take quiet time out for themselves, experience much less drama, and a greater sense of wellbeing, that tends to lead to far better communication with others – and themselves.

Watch out for projecting your stuff

It is said that when we don’t like, or criticize something, about someone else, it can be because they are mirroring back to us something in ourselves that we haven’t seen or confronted. And never is this truer than when it comes to communicating with people we’re close to! We might say someone is projecting their stuff onto us, but the opposite can be the case. This can be especially so when we find ourselves attempting to communicate about the same thing time and time again.

At such times, it can really help to just stop and get curious as to what might be causing the breakdown in communications. Instead, ask yourself:

What am I believing about this person in this moment?
What could be underlying their (or my) reactions?
If this was my last conversation with this person, how would I like it to end up?

When it comes to communications, I am a firm believer in we are all doing the best that we can from our own unique perspective, and state of mind in the moment.

Another’s best might look very different from what we consider to be our point of view, but seeing others through that filter, and attributing good intentions, makes for much easier and successful interactions.

Wishing you a very happy and relaxing Christmas, and here’s to less busyness, and more different conversations in 2017!

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Letting Go of Expectations and Feeling Better

Letting Go of Expectations and Feeling Better

We’ve now passed the 100 day mark until the end of another year, and Christmas is around the corner!? If that causes any immediate stress, then I hope the following will provide some relief. I just ran a group on ways to feel better, and wanted to share some of the ideas we discussed.

Start your day as you mean to go on

Use the first hour of your morning to get into a good state/energy that sets you up in a good frame of mind for your day, and plan your priorities. This starts you off on the right foot, and helps you guard against any drag or resistance about completing less interesting or hard to do tasks. It keeps you focused on YOUR agenda, and less triggered by others’ demands.

Use feelings not thoughts as your guide

Be mindful of what you’re thinking in any given moment, and the ‘story’ you’re telling yourself. Thoughts create feelings so when you’re feeling stressed or uneasy, it’s a good indication to question what thoughts you’re believing in the moment. Instead, find alternative ways to view what is bugging or upsetting you that are the direct opposite. Focus on what you do want, not what you don’t, which can immediately make you feel better.

View negative feelings as useful information

No one likes feeling uncomfortable, but often it’s the resistance to what is happening, and not the event that causes most distress. See negative feelings as useful information, get curious and be mindful of the meanings you’re attaching to events. Check in on what you’re believing or thinking that is causing you discomfort – asking yourself “Is this really true?” Or “What else could this mean?” can quickly give you a different perspective.

Set boundaries and say no

A no to someone is a yes to you, and a win win for you both as it guards against misunderstandings, resentments or bad feelings building up later.

Does this decision feel good?

When making any decisions, only do so when you’re in a good frame of mind. Decisions taken when you’re not feeling at your best can cause problems in relationships, and invariably result in things unravelling for the worse down the line. At the same time, ask yourself “Does this decision take me further up my mountain?” i.e. meet your important priorities, and make you feel good or not? If you feel uneasy, or any resistance, make it a no for now until it feels better.

Build in regular time for reflection

What is your ‘why’ for doing what you do or living as you are?

When did you last think about that?

If you don’t know, take some time out now to think about it. No amount of setting intentions or writing ‘to do’ lists is a substitute for getting clarity, or feeling more at peace or happy on a regular basis.

If you’re not feeling how you would like to, what changes can you start to make before another year is out?

Replace expectations with appreciation

Let everyone off the hook from having to change, be or do things to please you. So often we can be driven by a need to feel right or defend our position. But as I often ask people I work with “do you want to be right or do you want to be happy – it’s your choice”. Instead, focus on appreciating what you do enjoy about the person and what they do bring to your life.

That’s my conversation for today – hope it’s given you some food for thought. Here’s to making the most of the rest of your year!

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A nudge about Challenging Times

A nudge about Challenging Times

I swam on this beach while on holiday recently in Paxos, Greece. A week ‘unplugged’ with no access to emails or internet or news on the European Referendum – I highly recommend it!

Challenging times

Once back and on line, of course news about the result, and accompanying non-stop media commentary, are hard to avoid. The expression ‘we’re living in interesting times’ is an understatement, and the fall out has generated high levels of uncertainty.

In my experience, it can help to remember three things when navigating challenging times.

1 Choosing your focus

It can be all too easy to get swept up on a tide of negative emotion. Choosing your focus, and being very mindful over the conversation you’re having with yourself, can be a huge help. We might feel we have little control over what’s going on around us, but we do have control over our thoughts and perspectives.

And I’m not talking about positive thinking here. More a question I often ask people in my work: “Who do you think is in charge of your thoughts if not you?” Remembering that it can only be you can be very empowering!

2 Acceptance versus resistance

Accepting things as they are can be hard, but so often it’s our own resistance to accepting something we might not want or like, which causes the upset rather than the event itself.

Put another way, ‘what you resist, persists’. The quicker you can drop the resistance, and take the view it is what it is – whilst not seeing it worse than it is – the better you’ll start to feel.

3 Get curious

We can all have a tendency to get stuck in a particular pattern of ‘either/or’ or ‘right or wrong’ thinking about both events and other people. The mind will then seek out all the evidence to support your point of view – part of a survival mechanism that’s wired into us.

Looping of unhelpful thoughts can be exhausting and stressful.

Instead, it can help to get really curious. Coming up with at least three possible alternatives to what you’re believing forces the mind to consider other options.

Asking yourself better, open ended, questions can also help shift your perspective. Questions like:

“What else might this mean?”
“What would have to happen for me to view this differently?”

“How can I know for sure what I’m believing is true?”
“What might I feel or do now/next if I didn’t believe this thought?”


Finally, turning your attention to what you are happy and grateful for in your life – irrespective of anything else going on around you – is a proven way to counter negative thoughts. They say it’s impossible to think both a negative and positive thought at the same time so a focus on gratitude can make all the difference.

Given that we’re all only ever experiencing the feeling of our thinking in the moment, I know where I’d rather be directing my thoughts.

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