Bringing About Change That Lasts

Bruce Ellice-Flint BCHC Cert Pos.Pyc

There is an old quote by an unknown author which says…

“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”

This post seeks to expand on this idea to examine ways we can swap unhelpful eating habits for healthier ones.

Bringing about lasting change in our lives is hard. The first step towards change is simply believing it is possible. With this first step, we can hope to bring about a self fulfilling prophecy.

The bad news is that most of us have very little self discipline. So with this in mind our focus needs to shift from thinking about change as requiring self discipline. Self discipline is not going to work for the bigger changes we want to make in our lives.

Instead, take the simpler course of implementing smaller step rituals into our lives. Every person who brings about lasting change introduces rituals into their lives.

Building rituals requires very precise behaviours and performing them at very specific times motivated by deeply held values.

Some examples of rituals:

  • Following the food program that you have just signed up for.
  • Writing a gratitude journal each evening.
  • Physical exercise each morning (see Rachel’s video).

We might also need to rethink some of the negative rituals in our lives. Negative rituals might include things like (for example) regularly drinking alcohol with evening meals or sitting down for too long at work. What are some of the negative rituals in your life?

We can counter negative rituals by creating new positive rituals. Using the above examples these might be pouring ourselves a glass of water instead of wine or setting a reminder to stand up and move every 50 minutes or so.

To do

Write a list of rituals based on things that are very important to you. These should be rituals that will bring about positive change in your life.
For example, one of Emma’s rituals is to allow time to enjoy breakfast each morning.

What the studies tell us about rituals:-

These are some of the things that studies have told us about rituals:

  • They increase productivity and creativity.
  • The number of rituals we might introduce depends on our unique needs.
  • When we are introducing a new ritual it initially takes self-discipline (a ritual is a small change – and so self-discipline is useful here)
  • Introduce only one or two rituals at a time.
  • Start rituals immediately.
  • Real change comes when we follow up on our ideas or insights.

And last but not least:

  • It takes about 30 days of consistent practice for ritual to become a habit.

In other words, to implement the change that we want in our lives committing to practicing rituals for at least 30 days leads to success.

“The first step to change…is accepting your reality right now. Honouring your process. Compassionate self-awareness leads to change; harsh self-criticism only holds the pattern in place, creating a stubborn and defensive basic self. Be gentle with yourself as you would with a child. Be gentle but firm. Give yourself the space to grow.”
— Dan Millman in his book “The First Step to Change”.

Bruce Ellice-Flint is a Councillor and Psychotherapist. He holds a Bachelor of Counselling and Human Change; with a post graduate certification in Positive Psychology.
For more information:

Friendship, Connecting and Food

Bruce Ellice-Flint BCHC Cert. Pos.Psych.

Here are four amazing YouTube videos on the subjects of friendship, connecting and food.

Eat Together (2 ½ mins)
This wonderful ad was created by a Canadian retail chain in response to a study showing that two-thirds of Canadians are eating alone.

You can watch it by clicking on this link:

The study that prompted the campaign, found that when families eat together children grow up happier and healthier (93%) and teens build stronger relationships with their parents (94%). When people eat together, they see each other as equals (78%) and connect with one another (94%).

In response to the add Canada now has an #eattogether day.

Roseto Effect (2 ½ mins)
The phenomenon known as the Roseto Effect has come up repeatedly in my counselling and Positive Psychology studies. Roseto is a town in Pennsylvania which was different (or an outlier), in terms of the health of the community compared to the rest of America. The only thing that scientists could identify as a reason for reduced heart disease was the close-knit community.

Emma (with her nutritionist cap on) wonders if the olive oil and Mediterranean menu might have had something to do with the positive health outcomes.

You can watch the video by clicking on this link:
Roseto Effect

The Blue Zones (19 ½ mins)
‘The Blue Zones – Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived Longest’ is a best selling book written and researched by Dan Beutner and his National Geographic team.

In his Ted talk, Dan Beutner concludes, “When it comes to longevity, there is no short term fix in a pill or anything else , but when you think about it, your friends are long term adventures, and therefore perhaps the most significant thing that you can do to add more years to your life and life to your years”.

The complete TED talk can be watched via this link:
Dan Beutner TED Talk

Epicurus on Happiness (24 mins)
People who love luxurious eating and drinking can sometimes be described as Epicurean. In fact, this is a complete misunderstanding. Epicurus chose to live a far from luxurious life. His meals consisted mainly of bread vegetables and a few olives. Cheese, to him, represented a feast.

Epicurus proposed that we only need three things to be happy. 1) friends 2 ) freedom 3) an analysed life. He said that luxurious food and drinks in no way protect you from harm.

In 306BC, Epicurus bought a large house outside Athens and asked a group of friends to move in with him. It was large enough for each to have their own quarters, – but everyone would come together for meals and conversations in the evenings. His ideas were distinctive in that to really benefit from friends he had to see them not just occasionally but he had to live with these friends at all times – they would be permanent companions. He said that before you eat or drink anything, one should consider who you will be eating or drinking with. Epicurus recommended that we try never even to eat a snack alone.

The Epicurean philosophy was around for over 400 years after his death.

The following video is from the popular British philosopher and author, Alain de Botton. It is episode 2 of 6 about (mainly ancient) thinkers who have influenced history. All the episodes are available on YouTube.

This episode can be accessed here:
Alain de Botton – Epicurus

These videos link the idea that by eating communally with family and friends we can enjoy a life that is healthier, happier and more fulfilled.

One common objection is “but I’m an introvert…”. Extrovert and introvert alike need relationships. Intimacy is a universal need among all humans. An introvert may need to work out how they can get their own space as well as connection.

In reflecting on our own culture, over say the last 40 years, it is interesting to note the growth in the number of restaurants and cafes. More and more, rather than eating at home, we are choosing to dine (in often crowded and noisy environments) surrounded by people who we don’t know. We share the food and the environment but usually don’t interact with the other diners.

On one hand this increase in dining out, might be in response to busy lives and increased disposable income. On the other, perhaps people are seeking the community (with its related benefits) talked about in each of the above videos? Are we feeling connection by sharing the experience of eating together? Or is this a sign of increasing levels of isolation in our communities and peoples subconscious efforts to counter this? If so, do restaurants and cafe’s fill the gap? What do you think?

Bruce Ellice-Flint is a Counsellor and Psychotherapist. He holds a Bachelor of Counselling and Human Change; with a post graduate certificate in Positive Psychology. For more information:

Gut Health – Emma Ellice-Flint shares an insight into the beneficial effects of great gut health.

The gastrointestinal system comprises one long tube with other organs attached and interconnected. This tube’s shape and size changes with different functions, but remains the means by which all the nutrients and water from what we eat and drink enter our bodies. I believe the foundation of all health, balance and wellbeing is a healthy gut, with prebiotic foods and probiotic bacteria essential for the care of this vital part of our body.

Here are 5 reasons why we should love our insides more!

1. Mood:

The food choices we make each day can affect our gut microbiome either positively or negatively. The beneficial microbiota – the community of microbes living in our gastrointestinal tract – thrive when we eat foods that encourage its health, while the incorrect foods may not only foster a hostile environment for that microbiota but also encourage unwanted bacteria to thrive instead. The gut microbiota communicates with the brain, and vice versa, via several neural pathways. Amazingly, some gut microbiota can produce its own neurotransmitters – hormones that can communicate directly with the brain in its own language! Through this connection, our moods can influence, and be influenced by, our gut’s condition – happiness, positivity, excitement and optimism are affected by a healthy microbiota, while tendencies to grumpiness, anger, anxiety and weepiness may reflect an out of balance gut microbiome.

2. Stress:

The wall of the small intestine is covered with villi – small, finger-like projections that increase its surface area and its capacity to absorb nutrients from food. Studies have shown that chronic stress can reduce the length of the villi, so at these times it’s important to boost our “good” gut microbiota. This microbiota produces small fatty acids such as butyrate, which feed the villi and encourage them to grow larger and more robust, increasing their absorption of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, and also less likely to take in unwanted substances. That’s a win for the body, as it has access to more of the beneficial stuff from our food and less of the detrimental. By boosting your gut health, these villi can remain strong and nourished to do their job even when you’re stressed.

3. Immune system:

Our gut is the number one defence system in our body. Both its friendly microbiota and the gut lining are instrumental in helping to prevent us getting sick, or to reduce the severity of an illness and such complications as secondary infections. But here’s the tricky part: for those of us following the norms of Western or European culture, our gut tends to have a lower bacterial diversity. In part, this is due to a more relaxed use of antibiotics, which kill both the good and the bad bacteria in the gut. Also at fault is a typically low-fibre diet containing very little prebiotic food, which deprives any remaining beneficial bacteria of the nutrition it needs to thrive and multiply again after periods of antibiotic treatment. To help break a potentially vicious cycle of ill health, it’s important to increase the level of prebiotic and probiotic fermented foods in our daily diet. The resulting vigour of our gut will help make our immune system more resilient.

4. Weight gain:

People who are overweight or obese tend to have a different gut microbiota profile to those in a healthier weight range, which has led scientists to theorise that improving the microbiota could benefit weight loss. Trials were conducted on mice, transferring gut bacteria from thin mice into overweight mice to see whether it made a difference. And it did – the overweight mice lost weight! Extrapolating that example to the human body, it’s possible to conclude that the health of the microbiota of an overweight person affects the gut’s ability to process food efficiently, so the body is no longer the fat-burning machine nature designed. Foods rich in prebiotic fibre promote good gut microbiota to colonise – and these same foods also happen to help us feel fuller and satisfied.

5. Energy:

Unhealthy eating patterns and an out-of-balance gut microbiome can lead to subclinical infection, causing mild inflammation without you even knowing it. Rather, sufferers of such inflammation may experience seemingly unrelated symptoms, like fatigue, hormonal imbalance, weight gain, lack of energy and being “fuzzy headed”. Research indicates that chronic fatigue sufferers often present with a differing or reduced micro biome profile when compared to those without this condition. Related studies have shown a measurable improvement in fatigue symptoms when specific probiotics are administered. Even without a diagnosed explanation for fatigue, patients in my clinic who have added prebiotic and probiotic foods to their diet report they have increased energy.

This week sees plenty of prebiotic, fibre-rich foods to support your gastrointestinal tract and its microbiota.

Home Made Bone Broth

I’m pretty keen on the health benefits of bone broth, so much so I wrote a whole cookbook about it!

Well made bone broth contains amino acids found in the collagen of the bones, and also in our connective tissues, such the tissue lining the gut wall.

This is what gives the broth its thick liquid texture, so when it’s cold it has a jelly-like consistency.

Those amino acids help feed the microbiota lining the gut and lead to a healthier gut wall. One that can better absorb nutrients from food and can facilitate the production of neurotransmitters, the happy hormones.

The beneficial bacteria and prebiotic foods, along with your liver’s function, are important for the metabolism and preventing reabsorption of harmful oestrogens.

Plus if the lining of the gut and it’s host microbiota are healthy then your immunity will be boosted.

An unhealthy, unstable gut can lead to infection, causing mild inflammation without you even knowing it. You’re more likely to poorly absorb nutrients from food, and less likely to help your body to make those happy hormones.

This can lead to hormonal imbalance in your endocrine glands, weight gain and mood disturbances.
So look after your gut.

Here’s how to make a simple Chicken Bone Broth (stock)


3 organic chicken carcasses
4 large sticks of celery, washed and roughly chopped
2 large carrots, washed and roughly chopped
1 large red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
½ tbsp apple cider vinegar
½ bunch parsley stalks (save the parsley tops to use in other dishes)
2 large sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
2 bay leaves (fresh or dried) (optional)

Note: Chicken carcasses are the bones that are left after the butcher has removed the flesh, legs and wings. There should be almost no flesh left on the bones. The chicken feet are also good to use. Ask your butcher to break the bones into smaller pieces, if you wish


Place the carcass, celery, onion, carrot, vinegar and parsley stalks in a very large saucepan. Fill with cold water, close to the top, and well above the ingredients.

Place on the stove and bring to the boil without the lid on. It is very important to leave the lid off, otherwise your broth will go cloudy.

Turn down to a very low simmer so the water is just breaking with bubbles. Skim any scum that has formed on the top. Don’t worry if some of the cooking water comes off with this.

Allow to simmer for a minimum 4 hours and up to 24 hours. The longer you cook it, the more will be released from the bones.

Once the cooking is finished, drain through a colander and allow to cool in a glass/stainless steel/ceramic container that will fit in the fridge. Leave the lid off. Once cooled, put in the fridge, with the lid on, and leave to go really cold overnight. This allows any residual chicken fat to solidify on the surface, making it easy to remove.
This is your base broth. If the flavour is a little light for your tastes, reduce it by boiling to intensify the flavour. Add some chopped herbs, if you wish.

Note: if you want to increase the flavour of your finished broth then roast the bones in a hot over (about 180ºC) for 20-30 minutes, until the ‘bits’ attached to the bones are just turning golden. Then add to your pot along any juices that have accumulated. And continue as per the recipe.

Beef Broth (stock)

Buy organic beef bones from your butcher. Ask the butcher to cut the bones into smaller manageable pieces. Plus ask them what bones they think are best for making broth, I like joint part of the bones the best.

Before beginning the broth making, roast the beef bones for about 45 minutes in a hot oven (about 180ºC), draining off any fat that has accumulated at the base of the pan.
To make your broth, follow the directions for making chicken broth.

The Art of Napping (Or How to Nap Effectively)

By Bruce Ellice-Flint B.C.H.C.

The daytime rest has in the past carried with it negative connotations.

Solid scientific evidence has changed these views and brought about a revision of the negativity around afternoon napping.

NASA research with aircraft pilots shows that a 26 minute nap in flight, enhanced performance by 34 per cent and overall alertness by 54 percent. A Harvard study showed that a 45 minute nap improves learning and memory.

The body benefits as well. Napping reduces stress and lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke, diabetes and excessive weight gain. A more positive outlook is created by increased serotonin levels from napping.

The only caveat to napping is if a person has insomnia. If that is the case, it may be best to avoid napping, and instead tire oneself out naturally during the day sans naps to achieve a decent quality of sleep come nighttime.

To understand the optimal length of the nap, it is useful to look at how the body responds.


Most mammals have short sleeps at different times in the day. Our society adapted to have just one long sleep. However, a vestige of evolution remains. Research indicates that our bodies are programmed for two periods of intense sleepiness: in the early morning, from about 2 to 4am and in the afternoon, between 1 and 3pm.

This afternoon wave of drowsinesses is not due to a full lunch or low sugar intake. It will occur on an empty stomach or even after consuming that chocolate bar. Rather, it comes from an afternoon dormant phase in our physiological makeup. This is a time when our reaction time, memory, coordination, mood and alertness are all decreased.


To work out the best time for your nap, it will help you to know your “chronotype”. This is worked out in the following way.

Imagine that you are entirely free to plan your day? If you are most inclined to wake early, at say 6am, you are going to feel your nap need is around 1 – 1:30pm. If you are waking later (because you are going to bed later) then your nap need is likely to be closer to 2:30 or 3pm.

Choosing your type of nap

It is useful here to look at the sleep cycle. This is the 4 stages of change that occur in our brains electrical activity.

The complete cycle lasts for between 90 and 110 minutes and and repeats during a full nights sleep.

Stage 1 – 20 mins. Is falling asleep.
Stage 2 – 25mins. Is a light sleep.
Stage 3 – 35 mins. Deep sleep.
Stage 4 – REM – For adults starting at 10 mins and up to 20 mins during the night.

A short 20 minutes catnap will enhance alertness, concentration, lift your mood and sharpen motor skills. One study suggests that drinking coffee immediately before a this type of nap will boost alertness on waking. This is because the caffeine will kick in just as you are waking.

A 45 minute nap can still allow you to jump into action after the sleep. Waking from this stage will probably result in that feeling of grogginess and disorientation (inertia) that may last for 1⁄2 an hour or more. Overcome this by doing some brief exercise or stretching. Rinse your face with cold water.

A 90 to 120 minute nap will repair and restore on a physical level. It is longer than the full sleep cycle will usually limit that grogginess and disorientation (inertia) by allowing you to wake from REM sleep.

What not to do

Napping too close to bed can disrupt your sleep cycle. Try to limit the naps to the time between 1 and 3pm.

Avoid external distractions (like TV).

The perfect siesta

After choosing the type of nap, the next step is setting the right environment.

Darken the room. Choose to lie down rather than sleep in a sitting position. Have an appropriate light blanket or covering available if needed. However don’t allow yourself to get too hot in the sleep.

Calm your breathing by focusing on it. Or choose to concentrate on relaxing your muscles – one group at a time. Use earplugs or headphones with white noise if necessary.

Let thoughts come and go from your consciousness without letting any one linger for too long. Just notice the thought and let it go.

Set an alarm.


Luxuriate and relish in the benefits that napping provides:

• Mood enhancement
• Working memory enhancement
• Improved accuracy and perception

• Quicker motor skills
• Better coordination
• Improved learning
• Preventing burnout and reverses information overload • Heightened senses and creativity

• Improved health
Even a brief nap is better than none.

Easy, tasty and gut-loving

Crunchy Sprouted Lentils

These little beauties are like miracles in your kitchen, they sprout over just afew days and yet give your body so much benefit

Sydney is warming up and it's great weather to try sprouting your own pulses. Give it a go!
But why bother you ask. Well there are many health benefits to making and eating sprouted pulses.

They support your immune system, improve your digestion and provide a great energy source. In particular, pulses help support detoxification and elimination of any unwanted toxins and female hormones from the body.
By sprouting your own pulses you help to make the minerals, more easily absorbable.

Smaller pulses such as lentils and mung beans, and seeds such as broccoli are the easiest to sprout (although I reckon mung beans don’t taste as good as lentils or broccoli). Puy/black lentils and broccoli seeds are my fav for sprouting. Quinoa and small seeds, such as alfalfa, also sprout well. The smaller the seed, the faster they sprout. Larger pulses when sprouted, like chickpeas/garbanzo beans, can be a bit too crunchy (for my taste) and contain high levels of lectins, which can make your stomach bloat and feel uncomfortable.

Interestingly, research studies have shown that the absorption of beneficial nutrients in lentils is almost equal whether they are cooked or sprouted. I find them easy to sprout and love their delicious flavour and crunch in salads.

photo start Day.

Soak overnight half a cup of dried lentils in water in a big glass jar (roughly 1-litre capacity) or a bowl. The lentils should fill about 1/3 of the jar, and the water a bit above that. Cover with a tea towel or clean cloth and leave on your kitchen bench.

photo 12 hours later.

Next morning, drain the lentils and wash them in fresh water a couple of times. Tip back into the washed glass jar/bowl. Cover the top with a cloth, so that the lentils can ‘breathe’; you could seal the top of the jar with a rubber band. You don't want insects to get in. Leave on your kitchen bench all day.

That evening, remove the cloth top, gently rinse the lentils and drain away the water. Rinse the glass container; put the lentils back into it and cover and seal again. Leave on the kitchen bench overnight. After 24-48 hours your lentils will begin to sprout.

photo Day 2.

photo Day 3.

Keep rinsing and draining in the morning and again in the evening. Depending on how warm your kitchen is, the lentils should begin to sprout well by day two or three. Let them sprout until the root is about double the length of the lentils or longer. Keep carefully rinsing and draining each morning and evening for 3-5 days.

photo Day 4.

Once they are well sprouted place the lid on the jar and put them in the fridge to keep fresh. They should last for a week.

Use them anyway you like. I put them into my rice paper rolls, tossed into salads, and stirred into warm dishes. Or I make a tangy dressing and add in some cherry toms, plus chopped parsley and have an instant dish to scoff if I'm in a hurry.

Pulses help support detoxification and elimination of unwanted toxins from the body
Emma Ellice-Flint

Top 5 Reasons To Eat Plenty Of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I use extra virgin olive oil a great deal in my recipes. So I thought it was about time I gave you an explanation as to why. According to Dr Mary Flynn, experienced researcher on olive oil health and nutrition, the health benefits of olive oil are found in the phenol antioxidant content, not its mono-unsaturated fats. Which is why the extra virgin olive oil – very high in phenols – has greater health benefits than the low-phenol refined olive oils.


Here are my top 5 reasons why I love Extra Virgin Olive Oil


  1. It’s a really impressive oil for overall health

As Dr Simon Poole, specialist on the Mediterranean diet says “ The Mediterranean peoples have reduced risks of bowel, breast and prostate cancer, as well as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.’

Here’s a perfect example of research that backs up how healthy it is to eat extra virgin olive oil.

The PREDIMED study, published in 2013, is a scientific research trial conducted in Spain with 7400 men and women aged between 55-80 years, who were at high risk of cardiovascular disease but didn’t yet have it.

The group were randomly divided into three, and each were given intensive dietary education on one of the following:

  • low fat diet (control group)
  • Mediterranean diet with 30g nuts per day (provided)
  • Mediterranean diet with 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil per day (provided)

The trial was due to run for 6 years, however it was terminated after just 4 years and 8 months because those people eating the Mediterranean diet, and especially those eating the Mediterranean diet plus the specified extra virgin olive oil had a 30% less risk for developing cardiovascular diseases and breast cancer. So it was deemed unethical to keep the remaining third of the group on a low fat diet.

For overall healthy ageing, extra virgin olive oil is really beneficial. It offers protection from ageing because it contains high levels of natural antioxidants such as vitamin E, which can help prevent cell damage caused by free radicals.


  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a natural anti-inflammatory which reduces inflammatory pain.

That’s because it contains Oleocanthal (a unique natural element in extra virgin olive oil). This works to limit the production of inflammatory compounds in the body. It has a similar mode of action to the anti-inflammatory drug, Ibuprofen. Oleocanthal causes the “burning” sensation when we swallow extra virgin olive oil.

In 2005, Professor Beauchamp and his fellow researchers, reported that the consumption of small quantities of Oleocanthal (via extra virgin olive oil) may be responsible for the lower prevalence of chronic diseases associated with a Mediterranean dietary pattern. These researchers noted that ingestion of 50 g of extra virgin olive oil daily will provide approximately 10 mg of Oleocanthal, which is considered to be equivalent to a low (10%) dose of Ibuprofen, for pain relief. 50g is about 3 ½ tablespoons.


  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil helps with weight loss.

The Mediterranean dietary pattern, which includes extra virgin olive oil as the dominant oil/fat, has been associated with a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) and reduced levels of obesity.

Dr Mary Flynn, says ‘a meal containing fat leads to satiety, causing us to stop eating because the meal has satisfied us. Additionally, meals containing fat extend the length of time it takes us to get hungry again for our next meal. In this way, using extra virgin olive oil helps control body weight.’

A randomised study in 2010 of 44 overweight women, showed that an olive oil-enriched diet with overall fat intake between 15 and 30% of total daily calories (as part of an overall Mediterranean dietary pattern) resulted in more weight loss than a standard low-fat diet.


  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil helps us to absorb other nutrients from our food.

Carotenoids are pigments that give colour to vegetables. They have proposed cancer fighting properties in the body. Carotenoids require dietary fat for absorption. Therefore, cooking in oil/fat (i.e. extra virgin olive oil) increases the absorption of carotenoids. Glucosinolates are well known bio-active substances from the cruciferous family (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale), with proposed cancer protective properties. Glucosinolates are water soluble and are better preserved and absorbed with oil/fat.


  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is one of the best oils to cook with.

The International Olive Council says cooking with extra virgin olive oil at temperatures at/or below 210ºC is safe. ‘It undergoes no substantial structural change and keeps its nutritional value better than other oils, not only because of the antioxidants but also due to its high levels of oleic acid.’

So research shows cooking with extra virgin olive oil is quite safe to cook with up to 210ºC. In fact more recent research demonstrated that cooking or heating Australia extra virgin olive oil is safe up to 240ºC (because generally Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil is higher in polyphenols).


A note of caution – Just because an olive oil product has been listed as “extra virgin,” however, does not necessarily mean it truly contains extra virgin olive oil. Look for bottles or tins that state varietal type, country of origin, and chemical analysis. The chemical analysis includes at least the total phenol content. The European olive oil producers – from Spain, Italy, Greece, mostly –dominate the global olive oil trade. They are also subsidised and tariff-protected and the oils they export are typically low-quality refined oils labelled “pure” and “extra light”, at lower prices than Australian extra virgin oils, which are generally higher in the healthy phenolic content.

Gaining Benefit from Goal Setting

By Bruce Ellice-Flint B.C.H.C.

The topic this week relates back to what you might have been wanting to achieve from the Vitality Series.

Properly understanding the use and purpose of goals can lead to greater wellbeing. The goal of having goals is to liberate us so that we can live in, and enjoy, the present.

In fact, just having a goal is more important than actually attaining a goal.

Many people live under the illusion that reaching a certain destination is the key to happiness. I am thinking of, as an example, many of the rock and pop stars who died in their youth. They reached their personal goal (stardom?) which they thought would make them happy. So often it didn’t. After achieving the goal, alcohol and drugs often filled the place of the goal in their life.

“Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain, nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing towards the peak.” Tal Ben-Shahar author of ‘Happier – Learn the Secrets of Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfilment’

Current research points to the idea that it is the process of striving after goals – rather than goal attainment that is crucial for positive affect.

Drawing this research into our own lives – perhaps have a look at a particular small task that you are trying to achieve today? What I have noticed, is that actually getting to the end of whatever the particular task is, provides me with only a very fleeting positive feeling (if any at all).

Ideally, I want this feeling to last longer. If I change my perception, to one of being in the present moment with the task, then the research tells me that I can have a longer period of elevated positive affect.
This can be applied to lots of things in our lives – particularly the things that one view might describe as being mundane eg housework, paperwork, accounting, lawn mowing, garden watering etc etc – almost anything.

When planning your longer term goals we should be asking ourselves whether these goals are aligned with our personal interests and values? Are they chosen freely or at someone else’s behest? Choosing your own path is called becoming self concordant.

Engaging in self concordant activities (e.g. volunteering) even for a few hours a week can enhance our overall well being. Becoming self concordant is a difficult skill requiring both accurate self perception abilities as well as the ability to resist social pressures that may sometimes push us away from the direction that might be right for us. It takes time to master this.

Making our own choices contributes to our overall physical and psychological health. Remembering all the while, it’s about the journey.

Bruce Ellice-Flint has a Bachelors Degree in Counselling and Human Change (BCHC) and a Postgraduate Certificate in Positive Psychology.