Memory jars – make the most of your happy times.

glass memory jar

I expect all my clients to get something useful or valuable from every session. Reassuringly, they tell me that they do. Sometime it is an ‘Aha’ moment, or a complete re-frame of a conflict or problem. Other times it is a new tool, a new idea or a new perspective.

As a therapist and coach I get ‘takeaways’ from my clients too. Like the one I had today:

At this time of year I often provide clients with a list of questions to help them review the past year. Hopefully they gain some learning from their answers. My first question on the list is: ‘What were the 10 best things that happened to you and your family last year?’

Many clients can come up with answers easily and some struggle to see any positives in their year. With these people we work together to recognise that there is more pleasure in our lives than we realise.

Today though, my client (let’s imaginatively call him ‘John’) said ‘Oh that’s easy! We can just go through the memory jar.’

What is a happy memory jar?

A memory jar is not a particularly new idea, but I had never heard of it, I must admit. John explained:

We have a jar in the kitchen, with a pad of paper next to it and a pen. So any time we have a good experience, any one of us can write a note about it and put it in the jar.

At the end of the year, we sit at the table together and read them out. It is sometimes something we do on New Year’s day, or eve. It’s amazing how much you forget about your experiences and it can be great fun revisiting the memories together.

I can really see the value of this and I plan to suggest it to many of my clients.

I’ve seen some great, ready made memory jars online – like this one:

But it really is just a matter of getting any large pickle jar or something similar, a note block and a pen and getting started.

If there is a youngster who can’t yet write, they could draw a picture or you could scribe for them. I do think too it might be good to be aware that some members of your family may contribute less than others, so you might have to write some memories that specifically include them.

Once you have read them all out at the end of the year you could also write out the best of them in a journal or otherwise keep an ongoing record, year on year..

Here’s to building many more happy memories!

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Best Christmas ever?

best christmas ever

Some of us spent a lot of time planning and preparing for Christmas. We decided which family members to invite, who to visit, what food to buy, and ofcourse which gifts to get. There are so many things to do and when it gets to the day after Boxing Day, you might be forgiven for wondering if it was all worth it.

I hope you had a very lovely time this year and if you are like me, you still consider it to be Christmas through to Twelfth Night. For most people it never quite works out as planned. Life goes on, in spite of Christmas. You might suddenly find your plans thrown by unexpected illnesses, or car breakdowns or other ‘stuff’. Even if you were lucky enough to escape without the traditional Christmas trip to A&E (I didn’t) you will likely find that some things went better than expected and others went off like a damp cracker.

So here is a crazy thought. Why not, right now, write it all down.

In a journal, or your diary or just in a notebook, write down exactly what happened this Christmas. Make a promise with yourself that next year you will read what you have written and consider planning your holiday period differently.

How to get the best out of Christmas

Here are some suggested things you could ask yourself to get the ideas flowing.

  1. Write down your best moments and experiences. It is really important to do this now, before you forget. It can be so easy for you to choose to remember the bad things better than the good. There are usually lots of great memories at Christmas. From seeing the faces of the children as they open their gifts, to enjoying a laugh in charades. Even that great film you watched or your walk in the morning. These are the real highlights, regardless of how they fitted in to your original intentions. Make sure you record them. Reading over these notes can enable you to relive those pleasures.
  2. Write down the things that you think really mattered to you this Christmas. Was it getting the gift you always wanted, or was it the Turkey, or was it the Church service or the charity work you did. What was really important this Christmas?
  3. What wasn’t important? Did you end up buying lots of chocolates and sweets, only to find that everybody was too stuffed to enjoy them. Perhaps you bought your child a games console and found he spent most of Christmas playing with the yoyo that came in his Christmas cracker at lunch? Maybe you overindulged on wine or rich food to the point where you started to feel uncomfortable and regret it?
  4. What was missing? Who should have been there but wasn’t? What, when you got to the 27th December, made you feel you had missed out?
  5. How would you have done it differently? In an ideal world, what would your Christmas be like? Be really adventurous with this. There is no harm in imagining the Christmas that would be perfect for you. Would it be just you and your partner in front of a log fire? Would you have just cut and run and spent it in the Canaries? What could you change or add to your Christmas plans next year that might take you closer to the Christmas that you really want?
  6. How much did it all cost? The average family spends about £800 each Christmas. Some spend much more and any people take out loans to achieve this too. What did you spend your money on and was it worth it? While there are many unmissables that for some make Christmas complete, I wonder how many presents you will tuck away in a drawer, donate to charity shops or, worst of all possible fates, add to the annual re-gifting circuit? How many left-overs are you still working through or have you had to throw away? What did you buy that will sit in the fridge for a year waiting for you to throw it in the bin on 1 December because it is out of date?

Work through these questions and add any ideas of your own to make a complete review of your Christmas celebrations. Promise yourself that you’ll look at this again near the end of next year and pay attention to what you have learned. It will really help you to focus on a trimmed down (or up-sized) celebration. It could also help with your arguments with others to have a written record of what was good and bad this year.

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Weight-loss – it’s not just for Christmas.

Weight-loss at Christmas is something of a nightmare. Someone told me the other day that in order to burn off the calories gained by eating just one mince pie you would have to complete about 25 minutes of Burpees.
Now, if you have ever tried to do a burpee you will know that this is not something you want to spend time on over Christmas.
The thing about a calorie control diet is that it focusses on just that one thing – calories. Our thinking around calories tends to be:

calories in = bad; calories burned = good

If you’re a fan, as I am – the fact that a mince pie is a gorgeous hit of spicy fruity sweetness and we are saying ‘hello’ to a potentially lovely time of year when we have our first one, doesn’t enter into the equation.
In our minds it probably looks more like this: Read more ›

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6 quotes about sadness to change the way you feel now.

boy hiding under cushions

There are times in everyone’s lives when they feel deeply sad. There are great overwhelming moments of grief and loss. There is the dark, seemingly endless tunnel of depression.

These are the times when it feels that there is no bright side. Read more ›

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Guilt, regret and shame: can NLP help you deal with unhelpful emotions?

Dealing with guilt, regret or shame using NLP or Timeline Therapy can be very helpful in enabling you to move on in life.

All of us, at one time or another, have had moments where we have made choices that we have later had cause to regret. Guilt for doing something, or failing to do something seems inevitable and can cause us great unhappiness and pain.

Read more ›
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What is your real hourly rate?

calculating your real hourly rateDo you know your real hourly rate? Many clients come to me because they are trapped in a career or job that they no longer want.  One of the most common reasons that they give for not leaving is that they are paid too well and they can’t take a cut in income.  Sometimes though when you get down to it, that change in income may not be as dramatic as you think. There may be more alternatives than you think.

To help get some clarity it can be worth sitting down and really getting to grips with the figures. One question to ask is, “What is my REAL hourly rate?” Read more ›

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5 things that may help with anger issues

anger issues - a picture of the incredible hulkAnger issues are among the most common themes that come up when working with neurolinguistic programming (NLP) clients.  Often when I meet someone for the first time, clients will be concerned that they are having angry outbursts or feel pent-up feelings of anger. They can’t understand why this is happening. Small things, which you would not normally find more than slightly  irritating, take on an inappropriate level of emotion.  The tendency to lose your temper can lead to difficulties in your relationships, social life, and also at work. Clients have found themselves Read more ›

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Metaprograms: How big are your chunks?

In the last blog I visited the concept of ‘metaprograms’ – the general approaches to life that influence our view of the world and affect the success of our choices and outcomes, both positively and negatively. There are no ‘wrong’ metaprograms, and they are preferences rather than hard and fast rules. So in the last example, having a preference for a ‘toward’ metaprogram, or an ‘away from’ metaprogram each has their own benefits and disadvantages.

Another metaprogram that can have a significant effect on your world view is ‘chunk-size’.

A stonemason was working on a huge rock on the site of a new cathedral. A passing priest asked him what he was doing and the stonemason replied: ‘I am using these tools to make this rock the right shape to fit with other rocks. By doing this I will earn money for my family and keep us safe.’

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Metaprograms: Are you an away from or a towards person?

towards/away fromIs your map of the world (see my blog “I finally get getting there”) a generally positive one, or typically erring on the side of negativity?

How we respond to our world, as I’ve said many times before, can totally colour our view of life. Two people viewing the same event can have completely different experiences and interpretations, based on how they filter the information they receive through their senses. There are a range of these filters available to us. For instance we may filter our experience to favour certain senses – focusing on the visual, or on the sounds that are present. We may filter through our values – we may judge easy going people more harshly, for example if one of our highest values is consistency, or achievement.

Another key set of filters is based on our ‘Metaprograms’. I think one way to think of these are as ‘life attitudes’. They are the way you tend to process information and experiences. Metaprograms are often what is being tested in psychometric tests such as the Myers-Briggs test.

I’ll look at just one example of a metaprogram today, but I’ll probably write about others in future blogs.  The subject of todays blog is about whether you are a ‘towards’ or ‘away from’ person.

‘Towards’ people

A person who has a ‘towards’ paradigm, will tend to be focused on goals to be achieved, or positive outcomes to be fulfilled. They may look forward to events in the future, and be looking to make improvements. If you are a towards person, you are looking at what you can gain from a situation, a relationship or a new experience, for example. A ‘toward’ person is great to have around if you want to get things done quickly, or if you have a major goal to complete.  Sometimes a towards person can get into trouble by not thinking things through properly and taking too many risks. Read more ›

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Choice is not always a good thing

Here`s the scenario.  You are on your way to a meeting.  Perhaps it is work related, or a club committee, or simply catching up with a friend.  You’re about to head into the cafe, or the office and you suddenly realise that you haven’t got a pen.  You’re going to look a bit silly if you need to take some notes or jot down some figures, or even just put a date in your diary.

Just down the road from the venue for the meeting is a local supermarket – a pretty big one. They will definitely be selling pens. Read more ›

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