Sunday, 24 February 2013

How Lying & Keeping Secrets Affects our Health

“The most common lie is that which one lies to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception” – Friedrich Nietzsche.

There are many reasons why a person might start to tell lies. It may be that they have something to gain from it, or that they are protecting someone who might be hurt by the truth- or, that they are ashamed or feel guilty about something.  They may not want to worry those around them if the truth turns out to be negative, such as finding out the results of hospital tests for example.  Alternatively, it could be a white lie, such as “I am too tired to go out tonight" to avoid conflict or please others.
According to Harvard psychologist William Pollack, Ph.D, telling lies and keeping secrets can actually be bad for your health. Of course, we all know that certain lies need to be told and certain secrets must be kept. We just have to make sure we know when to lie or when to tell the truth.
When to do which

Tell the truth if:
·      Someone asks you outright – if you lie to someone directly, chances are that if they find out you will have damaged the trust within that relationship. Your friend, relative or partner will always remember it and never be sure whether you’re telling the truth or not in the future.
·      It’s making you tense and anxious – If you’re keeping a secret or have begun to tell lies and it’s making you nervous, tense and wound up, it’s better to come clean and put yourself (and everyone around you) out of their misery.
·      The situation isn’t too bad yet – If you can see things getting worse it’s good to come clean, especially if you think there might be ways to solve the problem or solutions that can be thought of behind the reason you lied/kept a secret.
Keep the secret or continue lying if:
·      It’s not your secret – Telling someone else’s secret might lead to gossip as well as breaking that person’s trust. Also, that person might have decided they want to sort it out themselves, and so you will shame them by getting there first. If it’s not your business it’s better not to trouble with it and support their decision in whether or not to tell.
·      You intend to tell it within days – Sometimes “Now just isn’t the right time”, and that’s okay. These things are better dealt with if everyone is in a good mood and ready to talk deeply about an issue.
So How do Lies and Secrets Affect my Health?
1.    Telling lies or keeping secrets is prone to making you anxious and on edge. Having something on your mind all the time isn’t good for you, especially if it’s linked to danger, e.g. someone finding out and exposing you, or the worry of others getting hurt etc. This makes us begin a “fight or flight” response, in which adrenaline is constantly in our bodies, which can be damaging long term and cause illnesses such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
2.    Telling lies or keeping secrets distract you from your daily routine – you are more likely to make mistakes, forget things, and make physical activities seem more difficult.
3.    Sometimes the secret itself is something you should be talking about. Having a “Big secret” can be very taxing if you have no one you feel you can tell, and therefore are not getting the appropriate support from family and friends. If you need someone to talk to but feel you have nowhere to turn, you might be better off talking to a therapist, calling a helpline such as the Samaritans 08457 90 90 90,  or asking for help on an internet forum.

Try and do what’s best for yourself and the people you love. This might involve making a difficult choice or coming clean about something.  Whether you choose to lie or tell the truth, keep the secret or reveal it, think about whether or not it is justified, and if the good consequences outweigh the bad.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Your Wellbeing- Improved with Gratitude

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” – Melody Beattie
Expressing gratitude improves your attitude (and your well being). But just saying “thank you” isn’t enough – From your heart you have to really mean it, although merely expressing it is a good starting point.  

Gratitude: The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

It can be hard to be grateful sometimes. After a long day at work with various trials and tribulations, sometimes when we get home we forget to appreciate the small things – Your partner cooking tea, or the kids bouncing down the stairs to greet you, your friend popping round with a book they thought you might like. Little things which we should be grateful for often get lost during the stress of every day life, but research has shown that if we start to notice and appreciate these things, we will also notice lots of health benefits;

  • Better sleeping, more social connections, improvement in overall happiness, higher levels of Energy, increased optimism
And are less likely to be;
  • Depressed, greedy or have alcohol dependency issues
(Taken from Melinda Beck of the Wall Street Journal)

One Method of increasing your gratitude is taking a step back and looking at the world in a rational way, i.e. is this situation really so bad/hopeless?  Often it is easy for us to get into ‘black and white’ thinking which means we can magnify our problems or discount what is good about the situation. 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy offers useful tools to help you to get past disfunctional thought processes and teach you to see the good in every situation and challenge any irrational thoughts. A simple strategy I often recommend to clients is to question the evidence of your thoughts and ‘is this really true?’  This helps engage the more logical part of your mind to counteract the negative thought.

Random Acts of Kindness also increases your wellbeing as it helps you to feel good about yourself, and increases your gratitude as you start to appreciate that the “Little things” really do matter. This week is Random Acts of Kindness week- have a look at the website for more information and how to get involved.

The benefits are clearly worth trying.  Be grateful. Notice the little things, say thank you, and you’ll start to feel happier, more energised and optimistic. Be thankful for the effort people put in, and the things that they do for you. The more you notice them, the more you will learn to appreciate them, and in turn make that person feel more appreciated.

Returning acts of kindness is also another way to show your appreciation and gratitude towards someone. Maybe even keep a journal with a list of everything you are grateful at the end of each day, no matter how small.  Develop an 'attitude of gratitude' and notice the results!