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Life skills for stress, health & wellbeing, fourth session

So yesterday we had the fourth evening of this twelve session course.  I posted on the third session last week.  What we covered is illustrated on the Powerpoint handouts I gave out as two six-slides-to-a-page handouts.  Click on slides 1-6, Powerpoint or slides 1-6, PDF and slides 7-12, Powerpoint or slides 7-12, PDF to see.

We began as usual with an Autogenic Training relaxation/meditation practice - this evening it was the "Pulse" exercise.  I often find that as the group develops, there seems a palpable feeling of increasing inner quietness week-on-week in how deep these shared practice sessions feel.  I realise that a big bit of this is that I become increasingly comfortable with the group, so my own personal practice with them deepens.  My guess is that it's also more than this - with me picking up an overall change in the group itself.  It shows itself too once we move to group discussion - more relaxed, open, sometimes jokey than in earlier sessons.  Good.

Everyone was here this evening - eight participants and myself.  I was speaking to a colleague at the weekend about a somewhat similar training course that they are running.  Their group seemed to be struggling a bit.  Part of this seemed to be the lack of initial one-to-one orientation at the start of the course.  It does seem so important that everyone sees clearly how doing this course - putting in the work - could be really helpful in areas that they individually particularly want to see improve. 

We split into three groups of three to talk about how last week's practice and intentions had gone.  I said that there were no failures, only potentially useful lessons.  I used the metaphor of climbing a mountain.  If anyone easily achieved their intentions for last week, maybe this coming week they could set themselves slightly more stretching targets - angling up the mountain more steeply.  If anyone failed to achieve all their intentions last week, maybe this was a lesson that they were pushing themselves too hard - angle up the mountain less steeply - set intentions for the coming week that are less difficult.  Good this small group work - it strengthens bonds, familiarity, affection within the group and gives people chances to learn from and help each other.

We came back to the full group.  I temporarily collected their practice records from last week and we went round checking in and troubleshooting.  Morale-boosting for the whole group to hear people talking about having more energy and feeling happier.  Reality-checking to talk about the difficulties of interacting with family members who might not be that positive about - for example - eating more fruit and veg.  I talked about how good or bad health behaviours can spread through social networks, as too can kindness or selfishness.  See for example the article "The company you keep really does matter" or "Cooperative behavior cascades in human social networks"

We then went to the slides.  I highlighted our goals for this evening - 1.) to take the Autogenic Training forward with the "Pulse" exercise, the "First differential" practice (see my posting on "Autogenic training, session 4" for more on this) and a new short 12-breath "Coming to our senses" practice.  This short exercise is downloadable both as in Powerpoint format and as a PDF.  2.) To continue with and potentially expand the quantity and variety of physical exercise.  3.) To continue to build a healthier diet - this week they received British Dietetic Association handouts on "Fish/Omega-3 fatty acids" and "Healthy snacks".  4.)  To review smoking, alcohol and weight.

I've blogged about alcohol several times.  See, for example"New NICE guidance on alcohol misuse".  I handed out several of leaflets from the "Alcohol & food" page of this website, including: 

Alcohol disorder assessment - "AUDIT and scoring" - this is the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) developed by the World Health Organization to help identify people whose alcohol consumption has become hazardous or harmful to their health.

"Damage caused by alcohol" - this one page handout highlights some of the worrying and significant damage caused by excessive alcohol use.

"What is a unit of alcohol?" - it is easy to be drinking more alcohol than one realizes.  This one page handout clarifies what a unit of alcohol is and how many units are likely to be in a number of commonly consumed drinks.

So the overall challenges for this week included Autogenics (Pulse, 1st Differential, and 12 Breath Exercise), continuing to work with exercise & food, and to consider monitoring alcohol intake.  They had "Reflection & intentions" sheets as well as "Practice records" .


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