Skip to main content

Author: timdalton

Is high expectation a root of low mood?

High expectation is linked to success, but can it also cause low mood? There is plenty of advice out there about self-improvement, how to be better at this and that, and how your life could be improved if you only believed it. It has a lot of truth to it – if you really believe in something then you are more likely to be motivated to get on and do it. For some people a good break in life is attributed to luck – the belief that if a person is successful the likelihood is that they’ve had a lucky break. Others realise the importance of their own actions in the process of that good break. You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘you make your own luck’, which I think is true on some level. However, in a constant world of self-improvement, of always believing we could be better, how do you reach a place of ever feeling okay, settled, and that good enough is good enough?

A simple example

Small talk is the cornerstone of human interaction, and here in the UK one of the cornerstones of small talk is the weather. Amongst those who are drawn towards this well-loved topic, the clear majority do so in a negative manner. But why? I think it’s down to expectation. Don’t get me wrong, there are some days here in the UK that are bad by anyone’s standards, but much of the time our mood towards it is influenced heavily by our own views and expectations. Let’s take for example a dry but overcast day in May at 12 degrees. Some of us would have something negative to say about it, ‘typical British weather’ etc. However, this view would be considerably different if that day happened to be in January. The only difference is expectation and yet it creates two very different perspectives. In January, we expect it to be cold and so if it was 12 degrees and dry it would have exceeded our expectations. In May however, we in the UK have been instilled with some kind of strange expectation that it should be above 20 degrees and sunny every day. Therefore when it isn’t it doesn’t meet expectations and can have a negative impact on our mood.

What can be done about it?

This kind of incorrect thinking or expectation can have a big impact in different areas of our life. As with the caveat above about the weather, there are many situations in life that warrant low mood and a change of expectation may not help much. However, in terms of day to day mood with low level annoyances, why not challenge your expectations? Be thankful for what you have and don’t let the need for continuous improvement for the future make you forget to enjoy the present. Let a dreary day in May be your warm day in January!

Did you know that counselling is available through Skype, online chat, and telephone as well as in person?

The idea of going to counselling can be a daunting prospect, or for a number of different reasons it may not be possible practically. For many years counselling was undertaken in person, but with advancements in technology it is now possible to speak to a counsellor through Skype, online chat, or over the telephone. The decision to undertake therapy is still not easy but with the addition of these different platforms there is now more choice and freedom available.

Some therapists are still a little apprehensive about these new platforms and regard counselling in person as the only appropriate way. A lot of the understanding around how we develop as people is based around our past and current relationships or interactions with others. As most of these occur in person, it is also suggested that undertaking counselling in person is of most benefit. Alongside these concerns it is also true that the full range of communication is only available when sat in the same room, and any other platform is lacking in some way. For example, counselling over the telephone is unable to utilise any visual communication. However, these concerns do not mean that telephone, Skype, or online chat are ineffective. In fact, on the contrary, they all have a relevant and important place in counselling.

Skype counselling

An ever more popular form of therapy, Skype is supported by some as being as effective as traditional in person therapy. Sessions are very similar to in person but are simply via internet based video chat. It is remarkable that even on different sides of the world counselling can occur as though both client and therapist were in the same room. It is suitable for most counselling requirements and is very useful for those who either struggle to make it to a session elsewhere, or even just find it more convenient. Although still a form of virtual therapy this platform has all forms of communication available as long as picture and sound are of good quality.

Online chat counselling

While still a relatively new form of therapy, online chat is becoming increasingly popular. It is a dialogue based therapy but through the medium of an internet based chat room using typing. There are some very important benefits to this medium but there are also the most limitations here in contrast to traditional therapy. As well as removing the possibility for visual communication it also takes out the element of tone, pitch, intonation and all the other audio signals we commonly use. However, despite the possible draw backs, for a lot of counselling requirements online chat is an excellent platform and especially for those who may find the idea of coming to a session in person too daunting.

Telephone counselling

Telephone counselling is popular and has been around for a while. If you cannot access the internet, do not have the computer expertise necessary to set up Skype, or just prefer talking over the telephone then this maybe the best option for you. It provides a great platform for talking which can be used effectively to overcome a number of different issues. A good number of counselling services use this platform and many will testify to its effectiveness.

In person, Skype, online chat, and telephone counselling are all effective platforms for therapy. The advantages and disadvantages of each just need to be weighed up for each individual situation.

Fighting off the Winter Blues

Low mood and depressive thoughts can often accompany a change in season. It can happen in any season but as we enter the winter months it is likely that most of us will experience an increase in low mood to some extent. It has been officially named as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and has been recognised in the latest version of the widely used diagnostic manual of mental disorders (DSM-5) as a common disorder. SAD occurs at certain times of the year but is fully in remission otherwise. It can affect different people in different ways, with some suffering very serious periods of depression. While most of us will not experience the most severe form of it, there is a lot of benefit in engaging in behaviours and changes in thinking that can counter it.

What causes it?

There are a few reasons attributed to the condition, but the most popular relates to a reduction in daylight hours. Others include secondary effects of the change to colder and less appealing weather. In some cases, as with non-seasonal related depression or low mood, chemical imbalances in the brain that can be counteracted by medication are attributed to the onset. However, while in some cases medication can be recommended (a GP is required to make such judgements), it is also worth noting that some chemical imbalances can be affected through practical behaviours such as exercise. The following suggestions should provide a good starting point to help with the winter blues:

1) Exercise

Exercise is known to help with depression. It increases the amount of feel-good brain chemicals such as endorphins and has a positive effect on the chemical imbalance. Unfortunately, the change in weather and reduction in daylight hours tends to reduce the motivation to carry out exercise which means that the natural mood elevating exercise that occurs in seasons with more favourable weather is absent. Even a small amount of exercise, preferably outside if weather or personal situation permits, will do wonders to combat the winter blues. Do not feel that you have to do intense exercise, just try increasing what you currently do by 15 minutes a day of light exercise and you’ll see a benefit.

2) Increase time spent in the daylight

Daylight has a significant effect on our mood. Countless studies have shown that even small amounts of exposure to sunlight can help to increase mood. It is possible that some people in the UK who work daytime shifts, or stay inside for high quantities of time, will not see daylight between waking up and going to sleep. It may not be as desirable to go outside during the winter months, but if you want to combat the winter blues then you will have to force yourself to spend at least half an hour, preferably a lot more, outside per day during daylight hours. You may have to leave the warm confines of your living room or staffroom, but fitting it in can benefit your wellbeing substantially. If physical circumstances do not allow for going outside, then you can either manoeuvre yourself to a window position or specialised SAD lights can also be purchased to give an alternative to natural light.

3) Change your thinking

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is based upon the premise that the way we think determines the way we feel and behave. Usually, essential routine appointments and tasks like going to work, eating and drinking are carried out largely irrespective of the way we feel. However, the extra non-essential things such as meeting up with friends, other social activities, spending time sourcing and preparing healthy food and completing tasks such as cleaning or general household chores are more likely to be pushed aside with the reason of not feeling good. Usually the reasoning behind this is correctly based upon the premise that the low mood or not feeling good is an unusual occurrence and will pass at some point. At the point that it passes those non-essential tasks maybe resumed and ‘normality’ is achieved once again. However, during the winter the low mood or not feeling great may not pass as quickly as it does in the summer. Therefore, the returning to ‘normality’ may not be achieved consistently until the season changes again. This is not to suggest that a good mood cannot be achieved, but merely that low mood may occur more frequently during the winter. If the same threshold is used in the winter as in the summer for not feeling good enough to do certain things, then a cycle of low mood can begin to occur.

All of the non-essential things listed above such as preparing healthy food, and social activities like meeting up with friends, also have an effect on mood. If the seasonal change causes you to not feel like doing them, then not doing them will compound the issue. It may sound simple, but changing your expectation of how you feel during the winter can really help. If you expect that you will not feel as great, then it will reduce the number of times you decide not to do the things that could serve to enhance your mood. Obviously illnesses commonly occur during the winter and these should not be ignored, but on the whole a higher tolerance of not feeling great should be adopted.


Unfortunately, some effects of the winter blues are a common occurrence for most of us, but with a few simple steps such as exercising, spending more time outside during daylight hours, and increasing your tolerance of low mood during the winter months, in most cases the effects can be significantly reduced.

Finding a Therapist in Loughborough

There are many different options when searching for ‘therapist Loughborough’. Due to important changes that have been made to regulatory counselling bodies over the last few years it is now much easier to determine the level of a counsellor’s training and calibre. I have completed a Masters course in Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy which was accredited by the BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy). However, training is only the start, and in order to remain a member of the BACP I have to work to very strict guidelines and undertake continuous professional development. It is important to note that the BACP is not the only counselling governing body and there are many other therapists in Loughborough who work to equally strict guidelines and training standards. Websites such as the Counselling-Directory and its good to talk, provide the contact details of many qualified therapists in Loughborough and across the country.

There is more to a suitable therapist than just their qualifications and experience so make sure that you meet them before committing to therapy. I offer a free assessment and a lot of other counsellors either offer it free or at a reduced rate. There is certainly no shortage of therapists in Loughborough, and with the new virtual forms of therapy (Skype, Telephone, and Online Chat) you can also look further afield. Remember to take your time and choose a counsellor that suits you.

A brief introduction to TA

Even the most confident and socially adept person suffers the effects of Transactional Analysis (TA, Eric Berne). We can at times become unable to interact to our usual standards with certain people. It doesn’t matter whether we know them well or have just met; there is something about them that causes a change in us, a loss of confidence, a feeling of inferiority, and many other associated feelings and emotions.

Continue reading

Simple CBT for Spiders

Usually our brains assess and deal with risks we face on a daily basis without us being aware of them. Getting out of bed, having a shower, preparing and eating breakfast, and travelling to work all have risks but for most of us they aren’t even given a second thought. Sometimes though, we are alerted to danger through the feeling of anxiety or fear. In most cases fear plays a very important role in helping us to avoid danger but sometimes it arises in ways that could be described as irrational. This blog looks at simple ways to start overcoming a fear of spiders.

Continue reading