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How many of us will realise our goals and ambitions in 2017 amidst the turmoil of everyday life? How many New Year’s resolutions will be forgotten or given up before the end of January? Overcoming barriers

Perhaps it is just as important to consider what barriers stop us achieving our goals as much as it is to focus on our goals. Barriers to achieving goals can be broken down into 3 main types:- Personal/social barriers, environmental/physical barriers and organisational/political barriers. 

Personal/social barriers (also known as intrinsic barriers) are those barriers or excuses that stop us exploring and achieving. “It costs too much, I can’t afford it, I’m too busy, I’m too old, why bother?” The best method to overcome these barriers is to write down a list of every excuse you think is stopping you and then prioritising the list to identify those personal/social barriers that are your biggest hindrance to you achieving your goals. Identifying and then overcoming your highest prioritised barriers will cause the others to melt away; so often we start with our flimsiest excuse not to do something in order that our deep rooted excuses are not exposed; by overcoming your biggest fears you will feel empowered and motivated.

Environmental/physical barriers (also known as extrinsic barriers) are fairly self explanatory. Typical environmental/physical barriers are transport, distance, opening hours and access. These barriers are best overcome by planning and organising. If the nearest gym is too far away, then why not bring the gym to you - invest in an exercise bike or join the local park run. If the local college doesn’t do language classes, then why not learn on-line or start a language group. Environmental and physical barriers may often overlap with personal and social barriers, and are often seen as good excuses not to do something; so don’t be afraid to include them in your priority list. Finding a way of overcoming the challenges of environmental/physical barriers is another great motivator. 

Finally whilst organisational/political barriers are the easiest to overcome, for many people the hardest to ignore. Events of 2016 have left many people ‘shellshocked’ and yet life does and must go on. Too many people focus on the “what ifs”? What if I lose my job? What if I don’t get a pay rise? What if Brexit means……? What if Trump does this…? As Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher suggested ‘the only constant in life is change’. Change happens whether we want it to or not. Using it as an excuse not to change ourselves, does not eliminate the change only our own chances for self improvement. Changing ourselves enables us to persuade and influence others. This may cause others to follow or join us. We become the participants of change rather than the voyeurs of change. 

I encourage you to commit yourself to achieving your goals and ambitions for 2017 irrespective of what world events are happening around us. Having identified your goals and ambitions for 2017, spend some time identifying, prioritising and eliminating the barriers. Happy New Year and I wish you every success in 2017.

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SleepAccording to research over 33% of all adults struggle to switch off at night and get to sleep. Most of us work long hours often without adequate 
lunch and stretch breaks.  On top of that add in a poor diet and lack of hydration and it is a cocktail of insomnia.  If this sounds familiar then maybe one or two of the following tips will be worth a try.

Early Bird Exercise – Exercise is fantastic for our health and stimulating our brain. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.  Some people find it very hard to slow down the brain receptors following the energy rush, a very good reason to exercise early in the day and not late at night as sleep can be difficult if the brain is buzzing with endorphins.

Mind Maps – Clear out your left over “To do” list them for tomorrow, doodle a mind map, make a plan, literally dump them from your brain.  Having a pen and paper available at night can also help if you wake up and remember something; rather than trying not to forget about it before the morning, write it down and get back to sleeping easy.

Diet Disasters – Eating late at night, especially if it is difficult food to digest, is a well-known sleep stopper.  Try to eat at least a few hours before going to bed and if you get the nibbles later, eat something light but slow release energy such as crackers or oat cakes, this will keep you satisfied for longer and help to stop any night time hunger pangs.

Correct Calories – Magnesium is a sleep enhancer so include plenty of it in your diet.  Such foods as salmon and trout, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, seeds of pumpkin and sunflower, beans, and avocados are just a few.  The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 400mg. 

Hydration Happiness – Drink at least 2 litres of water slowly throughout each day.  NHS studies show that as many as 90% of us are regularly dehydrated most of the day. Our bodies need water to operate properly and without enough of it our internal organs suffer, another reason for insomnia to set in.  To help further a glass of coconut water before bedtime can not only help to hydrate but also contains some magnesium as well as other minerals.

Stay Cool – Aim to make your bedroom a cool, calm and relaxing environment.  This can be through the colours of the décor, for example no harsh bright colours, using room spray to steep the room in sleepy fragrances, bergamot, lavender, experiment to find what works for you. Fresh cool air in the bedroom is a sleep tonic so get the windows open and turn the radiators down.  More bed clothes are better than hot bedrooms to induce sleep.

Real relaxation – If you have tried Mindfulness then you will know all about breathing for deep relaxation and being “in the moment”.  This is such a great way to induce sleep.  By changing our breathing pattern we indirectly change our physiology. When we breathe in, or inhale, we activate our sympathetic nervous system, which activates our physiology as well as our stress response. This is often called the fight or flight response. When we activate our sympathetic nervous system, our heart rate increases, pupils dilate, blood vessels constrict, sweat increases, and the digestive system slows down. We get more alert and overall tension increases. When we breathe out, or exhale, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “rest and digest” activities that occur when the body is at rest. Therefore, when we exhale, our heart rate slows down, intestinal and glandular activity increases, and we generally feel more relaxed. The practice of focusing on our breathing leads to reflective rather than reactive responses. It gives us control over our responses so we respond rather than react.

A breathing technique that is very helpful in deactivating the stress response consists of breathing in through the nose to the count of four and breathing out through the mouth to the count of eight - Breathe in through your nose to the count of four and out through your mouth to the count of eight. When you exhale, purse your lips and blow gently like you are blowing out a candle or blowing a bubble. This will help you slow down the exhale.

Let’s hope that some of these tips do the trick for you because sleep deprivation can bring on major health issues, cause irritability and depression which can lead to problems developing in all areas of life, work, home and relations and on and on. Wishing you many peaceful nights!

 

 

 

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Former solider, Alex Harrison, who was shot in the head whilst serving in Afghanistan was left blind in one eye and suffered from PTSD and anxiety, making it difficult to adapt to civilian life. Alex Harrison

Despite this setback, Alex had a great ambition to set up his own business.  Since coming on the Start Your Own Business Course with RHG Consult Ltd, in collaboration with the Prince's Trust, Alex has successfully set up his gardening business ‘Guardsman Landscaping and Property Service ltd’, which has experienced incredible growth and in just a few months Alex is already so busy he has taken on his first member of staff!

We asked Alex to give us an insight into his entrepreneurial mind-set, success, and what he gained from attending the Start Your Own Business course and the support and mentoring of the Prince's Trust. 

1. You have clearly been through a lot and admirably overcome many hurdles in your life; how have you managed to stay so positive and focused on achieving your ambitions?

A. Good Question! I have a great support network around me; they are always helping me and stopping me from making stupid decisions.

2. In your short, but highly successful time in business, what has been your biggest achievement so far?

A.  Doing so well and growing the whole business has been my biggest achievement, to the point that I recently took on a member of staff.

3. What do you enjoy the most about running your own business?

A. The flexible working hours – when they are not too long!

4. What key advice would you give to others who aspire to start their own business?

A. It is hard in the beginning, but when you put the effort in you will reap the rewards shortly after – so keep going!

5. What did you gain from the Start Your Own Business course with the Prince's Trust and RHG Consult?

A. I learnt a lot of information about starting a business that I wasn't aware of. There is so much more to it that you think. I also gained loads of support and was given a business mentor to support me after the course.

6. What would you say to encourage other budding entrepreneurs to come on the Start Your Own Business course?

A. Take the dive – the course is a great eye opener!

7. Sarah mentioned that you are an innovative speaker for Start Your Own Business courses, why do you do this and what do you like about it?

A. I feel that that because I am a young lad myself I can connect with others and be a role model for them. We have all been there when older generation tell you what to do, but from my own experience its not the best way to go about it; people need someone the same age who has been through experience as them, whom they can really relate to. I feel I can do this with others and hopefully encourage and inspire them with my successful story.

8. To what do you attribute your success?

A. You mean apart from the Mrs! I think my good sense of humour has been key – one thing the army has taught me is to see the light at the end of tunnel even in the darkest times. This has helped me to stay positive and motivated to achieve my business goals, even when they felt quite far away.

9. What drives you on?

A. Not wanting to fail.

10. Where do you see yourself and your business in five years time?

A. In 5 years time I see the business expanding dramatically to extent that I have several teams working for the company doing various tasks, including teams for gardening, property maintenance and landscaping.Guardsman Landscaping

A huge thank you to Alex for taking some time out of his extremely busy schedule to speak to us. If you are looking for the very best of landscaping and property services at competitive prices, visit the Guardsman Landscaping and Property Services website - http://www.gmlp-ltd.co.uk

If Alex’s story has inspired you to join us on a Start Your Own Business Course, please get in touch info@rhgconsult.go.uk or contact the Prince's Trust www.princes-trust.org.uk

 

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During our Mindfulness Course we discuss habits and our brain pathways. Recently I came across an article which I found really useful in helping me meditate and I have also now taken a course in self-hypnosis which has been fascinating! The article talks about us all being born with a specific set of physical parameters, but if we eat right, take care of ourselves, and work out, we can build muscle, flexibility, and endurance. The same is true for our minds: We can change our brain, boosting concentration, flexibility, and intelligence and building new neural pathways and networks, by working out our brain, particularly with mindfulness and related practices.    

                                                                                                             Pathways

Take a moment right now to try this basic mindfulness meditation for yourself. Before you begin, adopt a posture that is both comfortable and sustainable for a few minutes, and then set a timer for three minutes.

  • First, bring your awareness to an anchor:sensations or movement in your body, the breath, ambient sounds, counting, or even an image you found powerful or calming. Anything can be the anchor for your attention. Just invite your mind to rest there.
  • Pretty soon, you will notice your mind begin to wander.That is completely normal. Each time you notice it wandering, notice where it goes and then gently guide your awareness back to your anchor.

Pretty simple, right? So simple, in fact, that it might seem like you’re not doing very much. But don’t be fooled. Every aspect of this practice is building the muscles of your mind. In fact, one of my patients even likes to use the image of his brain getting a little bit bigger with each moment of mindfulness.

5 Ways You’re Strengthening Your Mind When You Practice Meditation:

  1. Each time you focus on or return to the anchor, you are building your muscles.
  2. Each time you focus on the anchor, you detach from your thought stream. This is a practice of letting go in the moment, which translates to letting go in the rest of the world.
  3. Each time you notice that the mind is wandering, that is the moment of mindfulness—not a moment of failure.
  4. Each time you are kind to yourself when your mind wanders, instead of criticising yourself, you are exercising and strengthening your self-compassion for challenging moments in the rest of your daily life.
  5. Each time you notice where the mind is wandering, that is an opportunity for insight into your mind’s habits and patterns—what we might call wisdom or self-understanding.

Each of the mental actions in this practice strengthens neural connections that, with practice, rewire your brain, over time making mindfulness and compassion the automatic response to stress. As the saying goes, “neurons that fire together, wire together,” and in this case, these are the concentration neurons, the awareness neurons, and the compassion and self-compassion neurons. We could all probably use a few more of those in our brains.

Over time, through mindfulness practice, we can build a map of the mind, notice our habitual thought patterns, and develop patience and compassion for our minds, ourselves and the world around us.

This article was adapted from Dr. Christopher Willard’s upcoming book Growing Up Mindful, available June 2016.

 

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We have on average 65,000 thoughts going through our minds every day, that is equivalent to 1.2 thoughts every second.  On top of that, unlike a computer, we have no “delete” button, so thoughts that we had yesterday, last week, last year, remain somewhere in our minds and can pop up to haunt us at any time.  We can have memories of experiences, good or bad, even from as far back as our toddler years, so is it any wonder that sometime our minds get a little “fuzzy”.Cognitive Bias

 

On top of this, our beliefs, morals and experiences subject us to cognitive bias,  those annoying hiccups in our thinking that cause us to make questionable decisions and on occasions reach ridiculous conclusions leading to irrational behaviour. A cognitive bias is a genuine flaw in our judgement that arises from errors of memory, statistically incorrect information, false probabilities, and poor judgement from external influences.  We may be prone to such errors in judgement, but if we can become more aware of them we can adjust our thinking to be more impartial and make more appropriate decisions.

 

Over the next few weeks we will consider a few specific “types” of bias at a time.  Starting with Negativity Bias as it is one we are faced with daily.

 

Negativity Bias – Social scientists have proven that we give more credibility to bad news than good, probably because we consider it to be more important or influential than good news. However, we run the risk of dwelling on the negative at the expense of genuinely good news.  It is a fact that violence, crime and wars have steadily declined over recent years, but most people would disagree and say “things are getting worse”, a perfect example of negativity bias working against us.

 

Confirmation Bias – In our perfect world everyone agrees with us, so we try to associate with others of a similar point of view, tastes and who express similar opinions to ourselves.  We seek out information that confirms we are correct and ignore information that contradicts or counters our ideas and thoughts.  It is suggested that the internet can make this worse by allowing us to narrow our search to information that we “like” to read and not what is objective.

 

Neglecting Probability - Deep down we all know that flying is safer than travelling by car, in fact the statistics show us that per 100 million miles travelled,  driving averages are 1.27 fatalities and 80 injuries against flying's lack of deaths and almost no injuries, which clearly shows air travel to be safer.  Yet very few of us have a problem getting in a car and going for a drive, but many of us suffer great anxiety when faced with boarding an airplane.  Neglecting probability leads us to over egg the risks of what is a relatively harmless activity and vice the versa if it suits us.

 

Maybe you can recall the last time you experienced one of these biases, would you have acted differently if you were intentionally being impartial and recognising your own biases? 

 

Next time we will look at the Bandwagon Effect and Projection Bias.

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