Top 10 Books for Personal Development and Growth

I do enjoy a good self-improvement book. Some people throw their eyes up towards the heavens when it comes to self-help, seeing it as a space full of charlatans whose success is built upon telling other people how to be successful. There is a certain amount of truth to that. One can also fall into the trap of becoming a self-help junkie, consuming lots of material without necessarily implementing these great ideas (I put my hand up on that one). There are more self-help books out there than the world will ever need, it is a multi-billion dollar industry, and most of them regurgitate the same messages in different ways. We have the most popular self-help book of all time in The Secret, telling us that if we just think positively enough about something, the universe will provide. And then there’s Tony Robbins, the guru of self-help, roaring and shouting in your face, being all motivational. The illusionist Derren Brown criticised the self help-industry upon release of his own book Happy, in 2016. “Clearly, some people adhere to The Secret, and that works out well for them. I don’t think that’s because the universe cares what they think. Having a dose of positive thinking and all that of course is helpful to a certain extent, but the universe doesn’t give a fuck.” Derren Brown Sure, being skeptical helps us filter out a lot of the shit, but that’s not to say that there isn’t a lot that we can learn from a good book, with genuine wisdom and an authentic message. Tony Robbins, as he says himself is not everyone’s cup...

Mantras to Get Out of Your Head

Strength of mind is as important as strength of body, and we like to feed ourselves both kinds here at Feed Me Strength. Mantra’s are a powerful and underused tool that can rewire our brains and our belief systems. As with most things, smart people have figured this out a long time ago, with the earliest mantras composed by Hindus in India at least 3000 years ago. Mantras can take the form of affirmations to prime the brain for positivity and success, with research exploring how resultant neurophysiological reactions act to shift mindset and behaviors. They can also serve as reminders that snap us out of self-destructive thought and behaviour patterns. I recently enjoyed Mark Sisson’s article ‘7 Primal Mantras to Drive your Success’, and it got me thinking about the mantras that I use in my own life. Here are 6 that have come to my aid in situations that include: when I am stuck, when I mess up, when I am overwhelmed with information, when I get caught up in cycles of negative thinking, when I am faced with self-doubt, and when I am feeling rushed or stressed. ‘Just get started’ This one mantra is the key to overcoming the beast that is procrastination. It is the consistent message of award-winning educator and University Professor Tim Pychyl in his mission to help people who postpone acting on their intentions. He makes the point that our feelings don’t have to match the task at hand. Social psychology has shown that our attitudes follow our behaviour. So rather than waiting on feeling like going training, practicing your instrument, writing...

Self-awareness – How well do you know yourself?

People often run away from psychological concepts such as mindfulness or self-awareness, as they exclaim, it’s not for me! But as humans living in this world, psychology is relevant to all of us so you can choose to stick your head in the mud or take advantage of it to grow as a person in all facets of life. So if you usually take comfort in reading about things that are easier to conceptualise, such as sets and reps of squats, take a deep mindful breath and bear with me. Tasha Eurich, a psychologist who has researched self-awareness and recently published a book on the subject, reports that 95% of people think they are self-aware, but that only 10-15% of us really are. As the Guardian writer, Oliver Burkeman, points out, this isn’t surprising as we can assume that one thing people who are lacking self-awareness are going to be unaware about, is their lack of self-awareness. We can all relate to someone who lacks self-awareness. There are those who are oblivious to the fact that in conversation they only every show interest in themselves, often coming to the party with a deluded sense of superiority. There’s the know-it-all who doesn’t take anything on board because they know everything already. Or maybe it’s someone you love who tends to overreact and lash out angrily when they feel threatened. Or maybe its you or me, beating ourselves up with negative inner dialogue, or showing impatience. What exactly is self-awareness? Being self-aware is being conscious of what makes us tick and of how we come across to others. It is the...

Complaining: Why, why not, and how to give your head peace

Moaning, whinging, and bitching. It comes in many different guises, but one thing is for sure, we do it a lot. Giving out about things is a habit so engrained in us that we are not even aware of the extent to which we complain. It may seem harmless enough, but chronic complaining has the potential to be self-destructive, priming your brain towards the negative. And if positive affirmations have the potential to create a successful reality, chronic complaining may conversely set you up for a lifetime of being pissed off about things. On the other hand, complaining in many instances is a necessary strategy and if used effectively can help solve problems and create worthwhile change. It’s worth exploring this phenomenon to better understand the different types of complaining and the motivations behind it. Lisa Juliano, Psy.D. on her Psychology Today blog, puts complaining into three different categories: 1) The Active Effective Complaint An active complaint is directed at whoever is responsible for the dissatisfying situation or service. In this case, the complainer is actively seeking a solution to the problem. This can be constructive and is an important skill to develop. A lot of people, particularly in Ireland it seems, bottle up their dissatisfaction about something in order to avoid causing a scene. For instance, being overcharged at the supermarket or a meal being served cold at a restaurant. This in turn may perpetuate internal turmoil and distress. Active effective complaining means not being afraid to speak up. I need to battle my Irish genetic predisposition on this one and take after my mother who has never been...

Rethinking and building mental health

Why is it that we intuitively appreciate that to be in good physical shape requires some form of physical exercise, yet expect good mental shape to be pre-programmed? We don’t usually wait until we have Type II diabetes before we start moving, but it often takes a catastrophic event such as a breakdown or depression before we consider mental health. Mental health. There is a stigma attached to those two words that immediately make most people switch off. Many agree that mental health is an important topic, but not one that is relevant to them. There is probably an element of protecting one’s self-esteem here, with the perception that if you are working on your mental health, there must be something wrong to begin with. There is something wrong, but it isn’t you. There is a pretty strong argument to be made that the society we live in today is broken. Of course, there are many great things about being alive today, but we certainly are not living in accordance with how humans have evolved. Today we are exposed to chronic psychological stressors which our bodies have not biologically adapted to cope with. The purpose of the hormonal stress response is to prepare the resources of the body in preparation for crisis. But what happens when the body is constantly in the ‘flight-or-fight’ mode associated with imminent threat? Constant exposure to stressors and over-activation of this stress response (allostatic load) is associated with inflammatory disease and negative mental health outcomes. We are not supposed to be working 9 to 5 jobs for numbers on a screen that can turn...