WHAT I'M DOING NOW
READING (Click on titles for more details):
I'm currently reading 'The Outrun' by Amy Liptrot. It’s a brilliant diary about recovery from alcoholism aided by nature. It’s a journey of self-discovery as the author traces the routes that may have led to her addiction while simultaneously uncovering pathways out of addiction and into recovery. I’ve never had a problem with alcohol or any type of addiction, so It’s helped give me an understanding of alcoholism and addiction from the perspective of the sufferer, while also providing interesting observations of possible non-medical interventions that appear to mimic traditional treatments - such as sea swimming being comparable to electric shock treatment. It’s not just a book about alcoholism and recovery from addiction, it is so much more than that. The descriptions of nature and the lessons in history, geology, and astronomy are absorbing.
I absolutely loved Educated by Tara Westover. I don’t want to give too much away, but it is an autobiographical account of growing up in a ‘survivalist’ and separatist fundamental Mormon family without any formal education. It’s an incredible true story of how a young woman taught herself the basics of education in a household dominated by religion and mental health issues, and went on to do something truly remarkable.
At the beginning of this year I read Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, a well-researched, analysis of how our over-reliance on our screens (and social media in particular) is sapping our time, energy and autonomy. I found it better than similar books in this field, as it’s not just a warning about the problems with social media, but also gives practical strategies to help change behaviour that really work.
I've also recently read 'The Stress Solution', a practical look at reducing stress from GP Dr Rangan Chattergee. The book divides stress reduction strategies into 4 categories (Purpose, Relationships, Body, and Mind) explaining the research while also providing multiple practical steps in a clear and concise way. However, it could do without the full page photos of the author in poses such as staring into the distance, sitting on a beach, or holding fruit! I’ve also not long finished 'Sleep', in which ‘sleep coach’ Nick Littlehales provides an innovative approach to sleep in comparison to other books I’ve read on the subject. Very helpful, particularly if you stress over the amount of sleep you get, although there is a little too much self-promotion in it for my liking.
Other books I’ve read over the last few months that I would recommend include In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott, an autobiography about growing up in a religious cult (the Closed Brethren), The Aviator, a Russian time-travel novel with a twist, and Lost Connections, a deep dive into the social and environmental causes of depression by Johann Hari. Although criticised by some academics I found it a brilliant and accessible summary of the research in this area, with a hopeful message.
My main focus this year is the writing of my next book and online course.
The book has a working title of ‘Deliberate Living: Overcome Fear, and Take Control of Your Life ’ It’s about finding and living your purpose, along with practical exercises to help manage your mind in order to allow you to do this. Although I have been approached by a few publishers, I’m currently planning to self-publish the book in Kindle, paperback and audio formats. I’ve not yet been convinced that a traditional publishing deal would be the best way to release my work.
The online course is based on my second published book, ‘Overcome Social Anxiety and Shyness’, providing practical exercises and an action plan to overcome shyness and create confidence.
I've also been approached by a media company to create a podcast in which I talk to people who have used various strategies to manage their mind and overcome anxiety (using the exercises from my books and other useful strategies). I’m currently looking for readers of my books to participate in this, so please CONTACT ME if you’re interested.
I'm marking Psychology A Levels for an exam board in the summer, which I'm actually looking forward to. I always find the different ways students answer questions very interesting.
It’s also looking likely that I will do some part-time lecturing again at a university over the next academic year, a Masters module in Exercise Psychology, but this is still to be confirmed.
HEALTH AND LIFE
I'm currently walking my dog for around 2 hours a day in countryside (much easier with the long summer days) and also walk as much as I can when going about my normal everyday activities (walking to the train station and taking walking breaks during my working days). I’ve also upped my cardio activity by getting back into running and started to do some bodyweight strength training.
I do a form of meditation every day, mainly walking meditation or focusing on the breath. I practice mindfulness throughout the day as much as I can, and continue to use the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) skills of defusion, expansion, and engagement when needed and when I remember. Defusion is probably the most powerful psychological skill I've ever learned and has helped change my life more than any other intervention I've learned. Click here for a simple description of defusion along with some practical exercises.
Last year I deleted my Facebook account due to Facebook's data privacy lapses and also their stance towards hosting abuse videos and disinformation. This was one of the best decisions I made last year and I don’t regret it at all. I still use Twitter but I've reduced my social media time to around 20 minutes a day (enough to catch up on news and events without events without getting caught up in rage / anxiety cycles that can dominate the day). I found it was important to plan in advance for what to do in the times I would otherwise use social media (such as read, breathe, write some notes) to be successful in doing this. I still have a dilemma about engaging social media (explained well in this article) but overall the reduction has had a huge positive effect on my life.
This update was May 28th, 2019.