Swearing at the Coronavirus Might Just Do You the Power of Good

IMG 7473 - Swearing at the Coronavirus Might Just Do You the Power of Good

 

Sometimes, you’ve just got to call a spade a spade and, sometimes, you’ve got to look at something that’s a bit shit and just say, “fuck it.” Believe me, it will help you, as swearing at things can be a very empowering and life-affirming thing to do.

 

Many studies have backed up the usefulness of swearing in a variety of settings. Swearing can help you cope with adversity, get on with people more quickly, cope with difficult and demanding situations and, even, bolster the persuasiveness of your arguments, speeches and conversations.

 

One such experiment, from researchers at Northern Illinois University, examined the effects of swearing on the persuasiveness of a speaker. Participants were invited to listen to three versions of a speech. One where the word ‘damn’ appeared at the beginning, one where it appeared at the end and one where it didn’t appear at all. The results showed that swearing at the beginning or the end of the speech significantly increased not only the persuasiveness of the speech but also the perceived intensity of the speaker. 1

 

Meanwhile, Professor Richard Stephens, over at Keele University in Newcastle, has tested swearing in a wide variety of ways over the years. He and his team have discovered that people who do swear can hold their hands in freezing cold water for longer than those who don’t swear and that, in a test of anaerobic strength, people who swore produced more power wattage and a stronger handgrip on a stationary exercise bike than those who did not.

 

Elsewhere, other studies have shown that people who swear, as long as swearing is part of their overall and otherwise extensive vocabulary, tend to be healthier, happier and a whole lot more honest too.

 

 

Swearing then, is not only good for your physical and mental health, but it is also a great way to gain control over your pain, your stress and your emotions.

 

There’s a lot going on at the moment; a lot of things are currently out of our control and it’s easy to feel powerless and lost. However, if you want to lift your spirits and feel more resilient in the face of the current adversity, don’t be afraid to drop the F-bomb.

 

It’s not for nothing my therapy book is called The Four Thoughts That F*ck You Up (and how to fix them). In fact, it when it comes to self-help books with swearwords in the title, it’s not alone.

 

We have The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson (as well as his follow-up, Everything Is F*cked) and The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight, as well as Healthy as F*ck (Oonagh Duncan), Wake the F#ck Up (Brett Moran) and, my favourite, Fuck Off (a mindfulness swearword colouring book for adults). Finally, there’s the daddy of them all, F**k It Therapy by John C Parkin (plus his two f*ck-related follow ups). In a similar, but also slightly different refrain, we have Get your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight and (proving that even Knights of the Realm thing swearing is good for you) How to Fix Your Sh*t by Sháá Wasmund MBE.

 

Swearing crops up very frequently in my therapy room.

 

I once had a client who had an anger management issue and a very short fuse. “You must respect me,” he believed. “It’s intolerable to not be respected and people who don’t show respect me are arseholes.” This belief allowed him to kick off whenever he felt disrespected by anyone and, even, anything. He once ripped an IKEA cabinet to little bits and pieces just because ‘Thing A’ disrespected him by not fitting into ‘Groove B.’

 

The healthy alternative to all this was, “I like to be respected but I don’t have to be respected; I find it difficult to deal with when I’m not, but I know I can stand it; people who don’t respect me are not arseholes, they are worthwhile fallible human beings.”

 

With a little vim and vigour, his healthy beliefs became “I like to be respected but I don’t fucking have to be respected; I won’t like it when I’m not but it won’t fucking kill me and people who don’t aren’t fucking arseholes, they’re all-fucking-right really.” Eventually, over time, he whittled all this down to just, “fuck it.” And that was enough for him to gain control over his anger and keep calm, even when other people were being less than his ideal.

 

Profanity can be quite profound, you see; and this Coronavirus well, it can just fucking do one, can’t it?

 

 

1:Cory R. Scherer & Brad J. Sagarin (2006) Indecent influence: The positive effects of obscenity on persuasion, Social Influence, 1:2, 138-146, DOI: 10.1080/15534510600747597

 

 

How to Have a Happy New Year

IMG 6752 687x1030 - How to Have a Happy New Year

 

Each year, a friend of mine, when wishing family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances a “Happy New Year,” almost always follows it up with the rather dour postface of “let’s hope it’s better than the last one.” Sometimes they even run through some of the lower points from their preceding 12 months.

 

It’s not surprising that they do that as most human beings have a tendency to focus on the negative. It’s biological and innate; it’s hardwired into us. It’s habitual. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be changed. It’s possible to build a habit of thinking more positively, even if you’re currently the most negative person you know.

 

Positive psychology contains a vast range of tools, exercises, tips and tricks to help you do just that. Whereas most forms of psychotherapy focus on mental illness, positive psychology firmly fixes its gaze on mental wellness. “What can be done to make you feel happier and more fulfilled in your day-to-day life?” it asks. “How can you learn to flourish?”

 

One of its many, many laboratory tested exercises (i.e., a bunch of researchers have made people undertake these things and then rated their mood and physiology in a variety of ways) is one specifically designed to help you reflect upon events in a more positive way. And it does so by getting you to review the day, or the week, or even the month.

 

On a bad day, something nice will have happened (but it’s usually the bad thing you focus on) and, on a rotten week, several good things will also have happened (but it’s usually the rotten things that you reflect upon). But, by ignoring the bad in favour of good, despite your natural inclination, by writing them down in a diary or notebook, you are slowly and steadily building that habit of thinking more positively.

 

But, what does this mean for the new year and your happiness? Well, why not review your whole year? News and current affairs (and pop music) shows do it all the time.

 

So, another positive psychology exercise builds on the above by asking you to get hold of a bell jar, or some such similar receptacle. And, for a sense of occasion it asks that you get it in time for New Year’s Day. Then, over the coming 12 months, whenever something nice happens, you write that event or situation down on a piece of paper and pop it into the bell jar.

 

Note by note, nice thing by nice thing, into the jar it goes. A compliment here, a bonus there; a trip on a sunny day, a night out with friends, you name it. Large or small, any and all events go in the jar. And then, on New Year’s Eve next year, you can gather around the jar with family and friends, or simply on your own if you enjoy being solitary and introspective, and then reflect on what a lovely year you’ve had.

 

“Happy New Year,” you’ll say. “I hope it’s as good as this one was.”

 

You’re not denying that bad things have happened; you’re just choosing to ignore them for once, in favour of the good.

 

Won’t that be nice?

 

 

Men, Mental Health, Barbershops and Talking

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It’s good to talk, isn’t it? Male or female, young or old, it’s good to have someone to turn to in times of trouble, yes? And yet, despite the many inroads made in raising mental health issues, men still struggle with talking about their feelings, or reaching out if they’re in difficulty. Which is problematic to say the least. And, it needs to change, but how? Read more

Stop Saying Sorry (unless you mean it)

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Going against what Elton John famously sang, sorry doesn’t seem to be the hardest word at all. In fact, it’s thrown around every day and everywhere with a wild and empty abandon. And that is a sad, sad situation. Read more

Stress: take back control

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Earlier this month, I talked about stress and how, according to a massive survey last year, three out of every four Brits are feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope. I also mentioned that therapy could help you to regain control. And it can, only not always in the way that you think.  But, what does that mean exactly? Read more

Brand New Bristol Based Therapist

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Well, fairly new; well, sort of new. New-ish; okay, I moved here from London in January 2016 but, due to other work commitments, it’s taken me this long to sort a private practice out. However, I am a psychotherapist and I’ve been working as one since 2004. Read more

Five Thinking Errors, and How to Deal With Them

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In Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) we often talk about, and look for, what we call cognitive distortions. Also known as ‘thinking errors’ a cognitive distortion is a type of thought (one that a: disturbs you, and b: isn’t true). They include all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralisation, mind reading, filtering, emotional reasoning and more. To find out what these are, and how to deal with them, read on. Read more

Treating Depression

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Last month I wrote about depression in the briefest of terms (click here). It’s a major contributor to mental health issues and is on the increase. More than a low mood or ‘the blues,’ depression can be severely disabling and a real struggle to get out of. However, you are not without help in that fight. Any and all of the following can and will have a positive effect. Read more

Dealing with Depression

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According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) depression – which currently affects over 120 million people worldwide – will be one of the leading contributors of global disease, second only to heart disease, by the year 2020. Plus, based on its research, one healthcare provider believes depression will soon overtake stress at the UK’s biggest work-based mental health issue (click here). But, what is depression and why is it on the rise? Read more

Why You Need to Give up Your Demands

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In Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), the form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) that I advocate, we say that your demands are at the root of your psychological disturbance. But, what is a demand exactly, and how does it disturb you?  Read more