The psychological benefits of breakfast

This post was first written on Inshape News in July 2012.

The nutritional benefits of breakfast in relation to weight loss are well established and I’m sure will be well described by my fellow writers.  It is also important to consider the psychological benefits that can be gained when you sit down in the morning and tuck into a bowl of something healthy.

Consistently, studies demonstrate that memory, creativity, processing and other brain functioning are all enhanced following consumption of breakfast. Further, your morning meal can boost your energy levels and leave you feeling more alert and ready for your day.

One advantage of regularly eating breakfast is the discipline activated and required to maintain the routine. Self-discipline (or self-regulation) is the process of consciously managing your health. Whilst challenging for many, the decision to make proactive steps towards your health will have far reaching benefits. When we self-regulate we are likely to feel more in control of ourselves, and our tendency for impulsive behaviour decreases.

People who self-regulate are able to plan and set goals, reflect on their own behaviour and organize themselves appropriately. Other things we know about those who self-regulate are that they are more likely to seek out information and advice, will try harder and persevere for longer. These qualities are beneficial in all aspects of our health and well-being. So the habit of eating breakfast will provide more than just nutrition for your body and have an impact on your metabolic rate. Eating breakfast will set you up to increase the likelihood of making better health choices through the rest of your day – impacting on your long-term weight and health.

Self-regulating to ensure you eat breakfast is made easier with some planning and organization, however it is worth the effort. Also make sure you add some variety. Perhaps have a few cereals to choose from or cook some eggs in different ways. Creativity in our lives is helpful for our motivation levels. Ultimately, treat self-regulation like a muscle — the more you work it the stronger it gets. Self-regulation gets easier with time and its benefits to your waistline will be worth it.

The 4 questions asked in job interviews.

Going for a job interview, rates for many as one of the most stressful things that you can do.  Having worked with many job applicants, most tell me that if only they could be viewed ‘doing the job’ rather than needing to tell someone how good they would be at it, then their likelihood of success would be much greater! Image

Unfortunately not many applicants have the opportunity to trial in a position, however there are things that you can do to increase your confidence  and your marketability through the process.

Your key objective through the process is to sell who you are and what you can do.  For some people this can feel a daunting task, however the following exercise will serve you well to prepare you for any interview.

Most interviewers are not trained; they have just as likely been pulled out of their jobs to interview you for the position.  Regardless of whether they realise it, the interviewer only asks four questions during the interview.  Certainly it may be phrased in a multitude of ways, but if you know what the fundamental questions are and your responses to them, then you can answer any question put to you during the interview.

I recommend to clients to take 4 x A4 sheets, put each of the following questions at the top of each page and write their responses to each question.  Familiarity with your answers will greatly increase your preparation for the interview.

Question one:  Why do you want to work for this organisation?

Here is your opportunity to demonstrate what you know about the organisation.  The interviewer will want to know what it is about their organisation that attracts you to them.  Perhaps it is the opportunity to work in a team environment with people with a particular skill set; how might the position within the organisation be different to what other organisations offer?

You certainly need to do your research in preparation for this question and often the internet can offer you a range of information to help you prepare for why this organisation and the position being offered is going to be a great match with who you are and your skill set.

Example questions:

What interests you about this job?

What do you know about our company?

Question two:  What can you do?

You may have certificates or a degree or years of experience in a particular industry …. but what can you do?  Interviewers want to know your skillset.  They want to know that when you walk through the door as an employee that there are certain skills that you can already do.

For this question it would help you to think about the achievements you have made in previous positions and be able to give specific examples to illustrate the points you are making.  It will also help if you can identify the key qualifications for the position and then to connect them to your experience and skill set.

Example questions:

Tell us about your experience in relation to this position?

What skills do you think will be essential in this position?

Question three:  What are you like?

‘Fitting’ in with an organisation is a key priority for most interviewers.  It’s one thing to be able to do the job, its another to do it in a way that brings harmony rather than tension to the team.  The interviewer will want to gain a sense of who you are and what you are like to see if you are going to fit in with the organisation.

Here is your opportunity to sell your attributes and the strengths of your personality.

Example questions:

What type of work environment do you prefer?

What are you passionate about?

Question four:  What will you cost us?

Every employee comes at a cost to the organisation, both financially in terms salary and the resources of the organisation needed to support the employee in the position (eg. Staff training, IT support etc).

Often the question of salary is set at the interview; however there may be some scope for negotiation.  The employer will assess your skill set and the needs you will place on the organisation as an employee.

Example questions:

What are your salary requirements, both short and long term?

What are your training requirements over the next 12 months?

The job interview needn’t be as daunting a task if you are organised and prepared.  Having a clear idea in your own mind as to who you are, your skills, what your career goals are and what you want from your career is a great preparation to helping you do a great interview.

What have been your interview experiences?  What are the questions you have found challenging to answer?

Facing depression

This post was first written on Inshape News in July 2012.

Depression can be experienced in many forms and with varying severity, from mild to severe or psychotic. However, there are a number of strategies that a person can adopt which will assist with their functioning and general well-being.

These are as follows:

1.  Enhance the positive areas of your life. Engaging in activities that you enjoy is a helpful step towards overcoming depression.  Ask yourself, “What have I stopped doing that I used to enjoy?”

Perhaps it is:

  • Reading a book.
  • Catching up with friends for a coffee or meal.
  • Exercising.
  • Going to the park.

To overcome depression, spend some time reflecting on the positive aspects of those activities and remember times when you did them.

Try to increase the number of positive activities and events in your daily routine.

2.  The way you think. One role for our mind is to generate our everyday thoughts. The way we think directly influences our mood and therefore our resulting behaviours. For example, if we think we are lazy, we may feel sad, which may result in us not being physically active. How we interpret our lives can be constructive and helpful or negative and harmful. How we think is an active choice. Negative thinking is an unhelpful habit that we can overcome with practise and persistence.

Just because we think something, doesn’t necessarily make it true. When you feel depressed negative thoughts can weigh on your mind. You may doubt yourself, wonder if you can cope, or feel like it’s all too hard. To overcome this, start by listening to that inner voice. Ask yourself, “What are you saying to yourself?”

Being aware of your negative thinking serves two purposes:

  1. Knowing your internal ‘chatter’ can act as an early warning sign that your thinking is not being helpful.
  2. Knowing your internal ‘chatter’ allows you to take action towards more helpful thinking.

Listen to your self-talk. Ask yourself, “Is it positive? Is it helpful? Would you speak to others the way you are speaking to yourself?”  If the answer is no, then challenge these negative unhelpful thoughts and replace them with something more beneficial. There are various self-help books that can assist you to do this or you may wish to seek guidance from a counselor.

Replace negative thoughts with positive, helpful thinking. Challenge yourself to think differently and create new positive thinking habits.

3.  Make positive choices. Often when we are feeling depressed we turn to food, alcohol, and cigarettes, as well as being inactive or reducing our social contact as a way of coping. Unfortunately these strategies may have negative consequences for us, especially if they are over used, particularly in the long term.

Broadening your decisions and considering the range of options you have may help you to consider other behaviours or actions that will benefit you.

If you’re feeling down perhaps you could go for a walk or if you find yourself seeking solace in the fridge choose fruit or another healthy choice.

Depression is a serious condition affecting a large proportion of the population. It is important that in cases of a depressive disorder — particularly a severe one — that a person seek assistance from an appropriate health practitioner. Psychology offers a number of therapeutic approaches and strategies to assist people in facing depression. It is important that you take steps that will best benefit you. Seeking help and adopting some of the strategies mentioned in this article may be helpful for you.