The Write Way – get free daily journal pages from RED DOOR.

journal image

Research indicates that those who express themselves in a journal require less visits to the doctor for their health, than those who don’t. How about you give it a try? RED DOOR is willing to supply 30 RED DOOR Journal pages to people enrolling in our Write Way project before the end of April 2019.*

Expressive writing (writing about your thoughts, reactions to situations, experiences, negative life events) is a self-reflective tool with tremendous power. By exploring emotional moments in our lives, we are forced to examine who we are, our values, our relationships, and ultimately, who we want to become.

*All you have to do is write to us to register. We will send you a brief questionnaire to complete at the beginning, and again at the end of your 30-day journal writing exercise. We believe that writing a journal for 30 days may help you achieve a greater sense of self-reflection, kindness towards yourself, and higher sense of contentment. All you need to do is commit to 30 days of journal writing. You don’t have to share your writing with anyone. These pages will be just for your private thoughts. It is important that you write only for yourself, and that it is kept in a private secure place.

The Write Way project uses specific journal prompts to encourage particular types of reflections around specific issues such as coping with anxiety, going through divorce, dealing with stress, desire to learn more about yourself, and overcoming depressed mood. Some examples are featured within this article.

Here are some of the potential benefits of writing a journal.

Cheap therapy: Without putting counsellors out of a job, the first benefit is that journaling is that it is a form of free therapy for which all types of people can benefit emotionally. Writing about stressful events helps the writer experience the event at a distance, with some much-needed detachment, which helps one review and come to terms with unsettling events. You can rewrite your experience from various perspectives, you can use the reflection to re-examine your feelings.

Resolve conflicts: Writing about your unresolved conflicts with others can help to clarify your own perspective on events, as well as leave you open to reinterpretation of your views, and those of the other party/ parties. Even writing about your emotional reaction inside a dispute is helpful therapy for yourself, as long as you are kind to yourself and non-judgemental. Even if you realise you have done “wrong” inside a dispute, you can use this format to look for reasons for forgiveness or reconciliation.

Access all areas: Journaling increases your self-awareness and your ability to reflect on your decision-making style. For example, you may start to see your internal voice on the page telling you that you MUST and SHOULD be doing things in a certain manner. Ask yourself, especially if you are an adult, why should you or must you do anything? If you record your mood over the course of many days you will be able to assess when you feel better or worse, and how many days you have felt strong and capable as opposed to sad or disconnected. This can help you decide if you can change those behaviours alone, or you would like to search for some additional help.

Stress Buster: When we have too many to dos running around in our heads, as well as heavy expectations that we put on ourselves, we can become overwhelmed. Writing a journal at this time will help you focus, calm your heart rate, and allow you to negotiate with your inner “shoulda-coulda-woulda” voice to help you challenge what items you really need to complete to keep you on your life plan, versus what is just ‘noise’.


Problem solved: When you write out a problem your analytical mind is able to reinterpret the situation from a less emotional perspective, hence we are likely to be able to see different opportunities to challenge situations. If you have a problem to solve, challenge yourself to write of five different solutions to the problem, even include the ludicrous. Even consider to challenge your view of the “problem”. Could it be reframed into an opportunity for you? To grow, to learn, to get ahead, to accept? Simply processing ideas has a way of helping structure a liveable solution.


Increase your sense of gratitude: A positive by product of recounting your experiences is that you also get to acknowledge the sources of support that exist in your life, and the parts of life which are good. If you don’t find this naturally occurring, you can even add a section in your journal – to celebrate three things that you are grateful in every diary entry.


Sounds promising? Then give the RED DOOR Write Way project a try. Send your email to Angela at to enrol. The Write Way project uses specific journal prompts to encourage particular types of reflections around specific issues so you might like to inform Angela which issues you would like help with so we can send you the best set for your circumstances.

Topics covered include: coping with anxiety, going through divorce, dealing with stress, desire to learn more about yourself, and overcoming depressed mood.




  • RED DOOR  reserves the right to refuse to send journal pages to individuals if their problems are beyond the scope of journal writing, or we have exceeded 100 applicants for this project.


Change the View. Challenging your thinking filters.

filtersContentment is, in part, a matter of perspective. Those whom are content are more likely to be able to respond positively to change when it is required, accept that some events are beyond their control and allow situations to be different than their expectations. This is because they can approach challenges with a rational perspective.

It is possible to change your thinking and be happier.

Famous psychologist, Albert Ellis, identified a plethora of irrational beliefs that we develop as part of the way we are raised, see the world, and believe about ourselves and other people. These beliefs are filters that, like a pair of glasses, interfere with the way that we see situations. Wearing faulty filters may cause people to engage in self-defeating behaviours such as experiencing self-hatred, jealousy, self-harm, accepting abusive relationships, procrastinating, and anger.

You can stop help yourself and remove your faulty filters by creating a constructive dispute with yourself, or even have a counsellor lead this discussion for you. The dialogue will depend on the filters that you use most frequently. Experiencing faulty filters is quite common, if you discover you have been experiencing faulty filters, you can change the view.

Change the view from your faulty filters.


black and white thinkingThis type of thinking occurs when you look at situations in a polarised way – situations, people, activities are either good or bad, nothing in between. Most situations are neither complete disasters or beyond fantastic, often situation have both good and bad aspects. Most people have some attributes that you find challenging, but this doesn’t make these people totally bad or good.

When people wear these black-and-white-thinking filters they can respond in an inflexible way to challenges – “I didn’t get an A in that test and now my future is ruined “or “I submitted that assignment but I made an error in the first paragraph so the whole article is now rubbish”.

In particular people who have black-and-white-thinking in relation to people find themselves caught in judgement loops – these people are all bad, and therefore my poor behaviour towards them is acceptable, or they need to be brought down.

If one has black-and-white-thinking in relation to situations, a person can end up with lowered resilience. Every set back can become a tragedy, rather than a minor bump in the road.

Change the view: If you feel you may be one who experiences black-and-white-thinking actively force yourself to find the shades-of-grey in situations, or with people. Can you recall a time you thought something would be a tragedy and it ended up being ok? Perhaps you fall into the practice of judging a situation too quickly. The next time this happens, before you define a situation as a disaster, let your emotions, and the situation play out a little further. See where more evidence might lead you.

Should-ing and Must-ing.

This is perhaps the easiest filter to catch yourself or others utilising. It is irrational to believe that most things are absolutely necessary. Believing that acts should be performed in a particular way, at a specific time, or in an exact order, creates a tyranny of should – a condition where you live life dictated by a list of thoughts which are not really rational.

shouldWhilst everyone has lots of things that they should (or could) be doing, some beliefs are irrational in their detail and in their believed consequences. For example, if everything needs to be perfect, this creates a lot of pressure on a person to perform a task to a (sometimes) unrealistic standard. Believing that you need to be the perfect student, parent, worker, lover, or be in control of all events in your life, be slim and attractive at all times, always be interesting, always have a friction free family – are unrealistic.

Being influenced by excessive should-ing and must-ing can have a multitude of psychological consequences including:

Self-doubt: feeling like a failure because you can not maintain your own (self-imposed) impossible standards,

Procrastination: too frozen in fear to start a project without already being an expert, or knowing you will be perfect at it.

Strict expectations: that others will live up to the same standards of you, or should not settle for less than perfect. You may find, without really wanting to, that you bully others to live up to your expectations.

Change the view:  If you suffer from ‘must-tic-ation’, the cure is to create a dispute. Do you REALLY have to be a perfect parent/child/partner/etc? is this realistic? What happens if you are not perfect? Do activities need to be conducted in a particular order? What might happen if the order can not be observed? Try to substitute the word “can” for the word “must”. This will help you remember that you have a choice in every situation. If you find that you respond with a high degree of anxiety to a need for order, you may have some early symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and may benefit from talking to a therapist.

Jumping to negative conclusions.

negative conclusionsWe all have the tendency to occasionally jump to conclusions. We may assume that someone deliberately performed an activity that hurt our feelings, or event assume and intent to their inaction (e.g. they don’t like me). In these situations, limited information or evidence can be used to support negative conclusions. This may be the case when we fail to get success at work, thinking that others are not supportive, when they are sometimes just too busy or not focused on our priority.

This type of faulty filter can lead to inaccuracies regarding our perception of people and situations.

Change the view: If you find yourself typically jumping to negative conclusions ask yourself the following reflective questions, “do I have solid evidence that my beliefs are true?” and, ”Is there a possible, alternative, view of this situation?”. If you jump to negative conclusions quite frequently you may even start to feel quite paranoid about other people’s motives. You may like to consider counselling in that situation. At least start a daily practice of reflection such as journaling so that you can capture and explore your emotional relationship with events at a time that may be willing to appraise your reactions.


overgeneralising.jpgOvergeneralising is a special type of jumping to conclusions – both negative and positive conclusions. Overgeneralising is often reflected in our language choices – we use extreme frequency terms to describe behaviours – “they ALWAYS forget”, “Things NEVER go right for me in love relationships, EVERYBODY is happy except for me”. “Now that I am separated, ALL my married friends won’t want to see me”. Occasionally we may even do this after a single instance – one rejection letter leading to the assumption “I will never get a job”.

Change the view: When we overgeneralise, we can make decision that are self-defeating such as giving up on applications, feeling bad about ourselves, and limiting our experience of life.  Try to ban words such as always, never, and everyone from your vocabulary, especially during self-talk. It is highly unlikely that an absolute term will be an accurate description of a situation.


mindreadingMind-reading is a special type of jumping to negative conclusions. Not only do we make an assumption about people in the absence of complete evidence, but at some level we feel certain we know what they are thinking. Whilst on some occasions we may guess this right, we may also get this wrong. I often talk with clients who assume people talk about them negatively or think a particular way about them. In my experience we greatly overestimate how much people talk about us, and how judgemental of us they may be. Most people are usually worrying about their lives and what they need to do, rather than the role we play.

As a consequence, mind-reading can lead to self-limiting or self-defeating behaviours. We may not sign up for an activity because we know what people may think. For example, we may not go to join a dating event because you think others will think you are desperate. Or go to a family dinner because your cousin may negatively judge you.

Change the view: People who practice mind-reading will benefit from an automatic Anti-mindreading reminder that people do not think about you as much or as negatively as you think. Additionally, worrying about what people think may be indicative of your own challenges with self-esteem. When you love yourself enough, what other people think will not matter so much.


catastrophisingCatastrophising refers to the faulty filter we apply when exploring the future of situations in regard to negative outcomes. Whilst it is typical to occasionally feel a negative outcome, when we go for medical checks and such, excessive worry is of no help. If you tend to catastrophise regularly you cause yourself immense distress. Imagining that all situations will end in disaster is exhausting. Worrying that people will die or leave you will not make those situations any easier when they do happen, it just makes you experience the situation, virtually, again and again.

Change the view:  People who catastrophise need to challenge their thinking with more ‘realistic’ thoughts, and remind themselves how many times in the past situations have turned out OK. Often the worry caused by catastrophising may move people to seek out reassurance from others, and this in itself can become a problem. Try to do nothing for a while first. Whilst the anxiety you feel is unpleasant you can work to distract yourself from that experience with anxiety relieving activities.


personalisingWhen we personalise we feel responsible for events or situations that are not our fault, or we assume that it is our fault. It can lead to us feeling offended when it isn’t necessary. If a friend ignores your text may not mean that you’ve offended them, instead it may mean they are busy. They may not be trying to offend us, or even be having an emotional reaction to something we have done.

Personalising can be a component of co-dependency in relationships. I once had a grumpy boss, and many of us who reported to him walked around on eggshells, torturing ourselves over what we had done wrong to upset him. Rather than wasting valuable energy on this worry, it might have been more constructive to let him have his time being grumpy (after all his emotions are his responsibility) and get on with the work that needed to be done.

If you have performed an act, either selfishly or unwittingly, where another person was hurt. You can take responsibility for your role in a situation, and apologise or try to make amends, but leave it to that situation. Whilst we can take responsibility of for our own behaviour and thoughts, we do not need to take responsibility for the choices of others.

Change the view: If you personalise you may want to review your thought process to see how a situation could be viewed differently. If you are taking responsibility for someone in addition to yourself you may want to ask yourself if you have become co-dependent –. When we are co-dependent, we see ourselves through the views of our significant others – if they say we are ok, then we are ok. IF they are angry or not operating properly in life, we need to change our behaviour in order to save them. Counselling is a great way to break out of co-dependent patterns.


We all filter sometimes. Imagine you are in a group and each is providing feedback on your work. Nine of the 10 people say you did a wonderful job. One person says they thought your contribution wasn’t good enough. Which do you remember – the 9 positive remarks, or the one negative. That is filtering.

filtering.jpgFiltering becomes a threat to our self -esteem if you use this faulty thinking style frequently. In the era of the internet where people can feel more willing to troll other people and say horrible things on line, selecting what you choose to believe and reinforce as regards you sense of self, is extremely important. This is especially true for teens who use internet vehicles to test reactions to their world views – and perhaps do not yet have the resilience to rebuff negative feedback.

Change the view: it takes time to build a solid sense of self, and it is a worth while activity. Catching the filtering you do in your life is one way to eliminate negative self-perceptions.  If 9 people say you are great, say thank you 9 times. To the person who gave negative feedback, say thank you as well (provided the feedback was given in an honest and with improvement in mind), but move on. One negative review does not define you, but it can help shape you. You will make mistakes in life. That is actually part of the journey. If one person says you are ugly, stupid, lame, vulgar, it is the opinion of ONE person, and quite possibly says more about them than it says about you. Be realistic, you will not receive 100% consensus on any topic, even how fabulous you are. There is only one vote that counts, and its yours.


comparingIt is common to consider our own attractiveness, status, success, and personal worth relative to others. Comparing oneself constantly can become quite negative, especially when we assume elements about the other person and ourselves. For example, thinking a person who gets a better pay rise than you is an overall better person than you is not only unrealistic, it is unproductive. Please see our article on the strong relationship between comparing and feeling miserable.

Change the view:  Catch yourself comparing and making assumptions about others. If your friend has a success, this says nothing about you. Repeat to yourself, “ I am enough, I do not need to compare”.


blamingOccasionally people let us down, even hurt us with their actions. Sometimes these actions are intentional. Many times, they are not.  It is good to be able to accept disappointment and imperfections in others. If you find that you become stuck and blame others for your position in life, or in a situation you give away some of the power to fix that situation. Accepting someone’s behaviour is not an endorsement of that behaviour, it is simply acknowledging that bad realities exist, and that life can be unfair.

People can get become stuck in the hurt they feel – for example if they are forced out of a job, or their romantic relationship ends. It is up to us to help ourselves move on from painful events, even if they were initiated by the action of others.

Change the view: keep moving forward in life. There will be set backs. Overcoming them is a part of life and building resilience. If you are having trouble getting past a pain caused at work our article on career crisis might help {blog career crisis), whilst if you are stuck from the pain of a hurt in a personal relationship our blog on recovery may be of assistance.


We all make mistakes or act foolishly sometimes. When we label ourselves, rather than our behaviour we diminish ourselves. For example, if you made a mistake on a report you could say, “I made a mistake”, or you could label “I’m so stupid”. The latter response does nothing for your self-esteem. Acknowledge mistakes and bad choices as part of life, that can be forgiven.

labellingIt is also illogical to label others, on the basis of one inference or observation. One fight with a colleague does not make her a “bitch”. When we label others, we not only diminish them, we provide rationalisation for further retaliation, “its okay to do xyz, because she is a bitch”. This is clearly not rational, and can often become prejudicial.

Change the view: Catch yourself when you use labels for yourself and others. Label acts and behaviours as problematic, not the person. We all need forgiveness sometime.

Where to next – did you notice if you have been wearing filters? Its time to take off those shades, and change your view. Follow our advice and I hope you will feel more self-accepting and content.

#catastrophising   #commonthinkingerrors  #faultythinking #blackandwhitethinking  #comparison  #blaming  #filtering  #personalising    #mindreading #reddoor  #mentalhealthessentials

Warning signs: when to consider couples’ counselling.


warning signs

Can counselling save your marriage?

Whilst most counsellors would like to say an unequivocal “YES” to this question, reconnection is very dependent on the couple, the history of their relationship, the degree of contempt in the relationship, the commitment of both parties to try to work at the relationship, and of course, the involvement of other parties.

When couples come to me for counselling the first diagnostic that I look for is the “sign of life”. We’re these people happy together once? If they were happy once, and both believe this, this is a promising sign of life and hope for the relationship. There will still be a lot of work, but you cannot make something that was never good into something great, but you can, again, like someone who you once loved.

The reality of couples counselling is that some couples  come to counselling after a serious disruptive act – such as having an affair, long standing contempt, and the echo of other significant life events (death of a parent, loss of work).  Whilst walking back from those challenges can be accomplished, it may be better to consider counselling when there are warning signs, rather than war wounds.


You are having the same argument again and again, for more than 6 months. Sometimes these arguments are a cover for other, even more complicated issues. Counsellors can help couples learn to communicate more effectively, and also dissect underling issues.

You live separate lives from one another. If you feel like you are more like flatmates than life mates. The process of counselling may help you build positive shared goals and set rules of engagement to help you reconnect Sometimes marriage partners feel determined, because of past hurst (inside or before the marriage) to express their independence from their partner. Counselling may help you face and resolve the opportunity to reconnect and enhance your shared feeling of like, and love.

You want different things out of life from your partner. Once upon at time you may have been best friends, and shared everything. As we grown, partners can become disconnected, especially as children enter the equation. A love relationship requires investment. People can change, and you may believe different things, but could an remain connected. A counsellor could help you navigate your shared values and help build better connectivity.

Intimacy is lacking. Intimacy is not just sex. All affection – hand holding, touching, kissing, and sex, matters. Couples counselling can help partners describe and discuss the reasons behind their challenges to intimacy.

You or your partner is tempted to have an affair. Relationships can be significantly damaged by disruption to expectations of exclusively. Even harmless Facebook flirting with ex-partners. Couples counselling can help individuals connect and consider their needs of their ego, and their current relationship.

The trust is gone. Trust is the foundation of a healthy relationship. When we do not trust our partner, we may try to build defences around ourselves and these compromise our future of the relationship in our relationship. Trust is an essential, yet fragile, component of relationships. Counselling can help couples explore reasons to trust (or not) and their own personal values and viewpoints that compromise their barriers to trust in the future.


Counselling can help couples reconnect. If you don’t feel ready, or your partner will not go to counselling, you might consider reading relationship building books

I personally like Gottman & Silver, “The seven principles for making marriage work” and M. Kirshenbaum’s “I love you, but I don’t trust you”. For some quick ideas to reconnect, please see our blog on making your relationship better:

Best of luck keeping your relationship on track. Please remember the words of American relationship psychologist Barbara De Angelis , “Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It is something you do”.


#reddoor #couples #relationships #trust #mentalhealthessentials

What’s NEXT? The need for vocational and continuing education for young adults with Special Educational Needs.

further education

When we look at options of services to extend the skill development of teens and adults after they finish school in HK is thankfully being expanded, but still has a long way to go.

Good people are doing good work, but the data on employment opportunities remains depression. Currently post school programmes are provided by  YES, Watchdog, and the Nesbitt Centre all of which do a great job, but there are still areas of need not covered.

In general, it’s not a great time to be a young adult (disabled or otherwise)!

Exploring data from International Labour Organization (2017 data in the link below), global employment trends for growth 2017 suggests the global unemployment rate was 13.1%. The youth population (disabled or otherwise) represents more than 70 million people globally are experiencing unemployment – they are neither in employment or in further education. Young adults are 3 times as likely to be unemployed than older adults. Young people need to be prepared to be educated but still be unemployed. This applies to all young adults, and affects the disabled in a disproportionate format. The future of the world of work is the topic of many fantastic books at the moment and will have a major impact on those already in work, and the next generation of college and school graduates.

It’s even worse if you have a disability.

Exploring US data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics (link below) the disabled experience less employment than those who have no disability and are young.

• For those 16-19 years old and disabled only 17% are employed, and 26% are underemployed
• For those 20-24 years old and disabled only 37% of that population are employed, and 14.6% are underemployed.
• For those 20-25 years old and disabled only 43% of that population are employed, and 10.9 % are underemployed.
There are often barriers for those with disability to gain access to suitable employment, including prejudice and misconceptions among employers, difficulty accommodating people’s physical or work schedule needs, the type of disability including the health implications, the ability to act a in socially expected manner, academic or task related competencies, and of course having the right skills. Part of the solution to this problem is adequate education of employers (thank you to the SENsational consultancy in Hong Kong
To better prepare the next generation of special educational adults, we as parents and educators need to provide ample services to those young adults as they launch from high school into the next stage of their careers. The majority of areas in which disabled individuals in Hong Kong find employment (hospitality, some retail, office work) are covered by certain centres and the SHINE organisation as well. (please see Sassy article link at the end).

Careers need to built around specific strengths of the individuals

The gap exists for children who have different areas of strength and varying levels of motivation – perhaps they are great artists, mathematicians, photographers, early childhood teaching assistants, even have extremely good knowledge of music or ability to sing. For them, and many others they not only require a more customised style of vocational training not previously available in HK. What is also important, they may have finished school without their education being complete. They may need a basic entry level of English or Math in order to start their career in a suitable arena, and this needs to be made possible within a setting that also teaches the requisite social skills and independence skills. Private tutoring provides the content but not the context. Quite simply, these kids, need the continue a concept of school until they are more fully cooked.

A new hope for the future – worth considering.

One area of employment growth which I believe has enormous potential is the area of self-employment or entrepreneurship.  Self-employment for people with special educational needs may help build career success within the future world of work. Portfolio work – working on various projects, and different arenas – in a freelancing capacity might be suit them more. What parents and their young adults need is a customised plan to help create these opportunities. This will be the backbone of the soon to be formed Next Academy. Careers developed around the strengths of individuals – artists, mathematicians, photographers, artists, which may involve further training, further therapy, and personalised business development plans.

In collaboration with their families and their community, young adults with disability can start to build a strong plan to identify their strengths, and vocations which celebrate those strengths. I am not saying its going to be easy. I’m simply pointing out that its necessary and possible.

#Specialeducationalneeds #downsyndrome #autism #continuingeducation #reddoor #nextacademy #vocationaltraining #youthunemployment #unemploymentdisabled
If you would like to know more about our plans for the NEXT ACADEMY please contact

Note- RED DOOR will host an evening event on 4 December 2019 to discuss NEXT ACADEMY and individualised education for Adults with SEN.

Useful links:
The International Labour Organization

Click to access wcms_600465.pdf

If you want to know more about the future of work – see our blog: Future success is no accident; preparing for the future of work.
the bureau of labour statistics comparing the rates of employment and underemployment in the US.

For a list of educational services for SEN in HK

The box of darkness: Dealing with painful “gifts”.

someonelovedThe American poet, Mary Oliver wrote of her experience of death in the poem “The Uses of Sorrow”: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

I use this  quote at frequently in therapy with clients, especially those who are navigating the painful paths initiated by the actions of a loved one, a spouse who walks out, a broken friendship, the death of someone special. In our moments of shock and grief, it is indeed like we have been given a box of darkness to unpack and cope with. So painful and debilitating, action seems pointless and enormously necessary at the same time.

Divorce, loss of significant relationships, death of a loved one, can swallow you up emotionally.

The most surprising thing for many going through those situations is the amount of other psychological struggles that can be brought up as a consequence of a single life event. Significant life events such as those mentioned have a tendency to unleash other problems and insecurities of the past. It is possible to ignore your co-dependencies, or low self-esteem, or perfectionist ideologies when the sun is shining, but once you are caught in the grasp of shock and sorrow, other pains and self-doubts find their way out of the shadows. Such is the box of darkness.

The lovely poem highlights the opportunity for hope that exists in turmoil. When all these problems overwhelm you, it is time to reach out for help. Good friends, a therapist, even writing a journal can help you navigate this abyss.

As many of you know I run a therapeutic divorce groups for women going through divorce. I see repeatedly, how the shocking end of a marriage can throw capable, loving women into cascades of self-doubt, self-loathing, deep worry and ruminations of revenge. As the group work their way through sharing experiences and psychological elements each one starts to move forward, slowly but surely, and quite quickly in the case of some. I know its hard, and I encourage these women to explore all aspects of themselves during divorce. Explore your relationships to your spouse, your family of origin, to money, to things, to status. These boxes of darkness, eventually produce stronger, more human, more authentic, kinder women. Forged from painful flames to be sure, but remarkable and resilient.

#boxofdarkness  #therapy #death #divorce #worldpoetryday #mentalhealth #mentalhealthessentials #reddoor

Suffocation from Stuffocation

stuffocationIn an era of (desired) minimalism and the attraction of Marie Kondo, living life with less stuff has been suggested as a route to greater happiness.

Most of us appreciate a goal to reduce clutter in our homes and offices. There is a difference between having too much stuff and being a hoarder, mainly in terms of the types of items collected and not thrown away, as well the emotional ties that people have to various objects.

In this world of face paced consumerism people can buy much more stuff than they could in the past. Many people in the first world may feel burdened by the amount of possessions they have. You may be experiencing the overwhelming phenomena of stuffocation: the experience of stress caused by owning so many items that you don’t know how to use, store, or manage.

You might be suffering from stuffocation if you:

1.Regularly misplace items in your home or office

2.You buy items to replace items that you have misplaced or lost in your home

3.Rather than feel joy when you look at all of your possessions, you feel overwhelmed or a sense of dread.

4.You have difficulty moving around rooms in your home because of too much stuff.

5.Your cupboard, draws and cabinets are full to the brim

6. You find it hard to discard of items you now longer regularly use

7. You have to have an external storage unit

8. You’ve read more than 2 books on decluttering and this has not made a significant difference to your decluttering practices

9. You feel embarrassed when people come into your home because of the amount of disorganised stuff.

At this point I need to make a confession – I have experienced 9 out of 9 of those listed above.  I once brought a de-cluttering book to replace the de-cluttering book I had lost in my home. This blog is by me, and for me at the same time.

Part of the reason I believe we struggle to clear clutter is that we tend to address clutter from a practical approach rather than a psychological approach. De-cluttering books provide advice how to sort items and where to recycle items. Whilst this is very helpful, it can leave the feelings we have about things unaddressed.

Its worthwhile to take a moment to explore some of the psychology of stuff, the thoughts we may have and how to overcome this thinking. Essentially we need to understand that objects are NOT just objects, we need to understand our own personal meaning of ‘things’.

Fear of running out or not having enough.  If you feel you keep things, anything, cups, dresses, shoes because you may need them if you give them up, or at some point in the future may not have enough of this item ask yourself the following series of questions as a reflection.

Reflection: Did I once have “not enough” and was anxious or fearful of that time? Did I cope with my lack of things then? Can I gain faith that I might be able to get past that moment again? Reflect on these questions. Is it unlikely that you will suddenly become poor in the future and not have enough of the things you are keeping now? What could you do to ensure that you have enough finances to secure your future? Could you train in some small part time job that would give you enough money to buy a new cup, dress, book? The likelihood is yes.

Action: Count how many you have of certain items. Then decide what is a reasonable amount for you to have of that item, in reality. How many pairs of shoes do you really want to have displayed? How many books? Once you have set a cap of how many, start to sort out these items into those you love, versus those you like, and those that have no meaning at all. The last pile is the first for you to discard.

Saving for the future use.  Items that you are keeping for a future rainy day need to be considered in a slightly different way. If you’ve changed jobs from a corporate job to one where casual attire is acceptable you may have a wardrobe full of clothes that occupy space, but are not longer in use. Some questions that may help with your thoughts and feelings around these items might include

Reflection: Do I love these items, or am I scared to get rid of them? Could someone else benefit from these items – a person at the beginning of their career? Will I, change my lifestyle again and go back to that lifestyle if I have a choice? If not, can I let ½ of these items go? Can I give myself one small storage box, a draw, something little that I can keep some of these items – just in case, but not the amount of space they have now?

Action: Count up how many of these items fit under this criterion. How much space in your home is dedicated to storing this space? Can you put a value to the cost of the storage space used to save these items. For example, you can use the following comparative assessment of space value provided by Cushman and Wakefield’s annual assessment of costs of offices around the world, we can make a brief calculation of the cost to store such items.


For example, in Hong Kong, the cost of a draw could be calculated to be USD 7.40 per day, that’s USD 2700 a year. Once you put a monetary value to storage, you can potentially force a relative value assessment. If it costs you (virtually) this much to save these clothes (or other items) does this change your perception of their value. Decide on a small storage you are willing to dedicate to maintain these items and prioritise what you love, what you like, from what simply fills space. Recycle those clothes or items that are not your favourites.

Feeling out of control, and not willing to let others help.  Do you feel embarrassed about your space? Have others offered to help you, but you reject their offers due to embarrassment? You can use this embarrassment to your advantage. If you feel out of control or ashamed about your stuff these reflections may help.

Reflection: What is the shame of having too much stuff? What do you think it says about you? What do you worry that other people might think of you? Is this true? How do you determine your value in life, how could your space reflect those values? Does having too much stuff fit with your perception and values that you hold for yourself? How can you work towards accepting yourself, with too much stuff, as well as without too much stuff?

Action: Use your embarrassment as a motivator. Tell your friends that you are working on eliminating clutter and would like their support. Define the support you might like. Perhaps you’d rather discuss what you can do with items rather than have physical support. Perhaps you can agree to invite friends over for an “after the clutter” celebration once you have some spaces sorted. Friends who use your clutter and stuffocation to judge you, may need to be told that their assessment of you hurts your feelings and makes it harder for you to start the process, even though you acknowledge that they want to help. Set yourself your deadline. Get going.

The joy of shopping and collecting – Sometimes we gain too much stuff because we like the process of acquisition too much. Is it possible you are addicted to buying more things, even when you don’t need them? If so, you might benefit from reading our blog on FOMO as this might be part of the issue. [Whilst there may be pleasure in shopping, and it may not greatly impact your financial situation, acquiring stuff as an activity is worth thinking about.

Reflections: What is it about shopping or acquiring items that brings you joy? Is there any other elements in your life, such as creativity or health, that could replace this activity in a more constructive manner? Do you shop to “keep up appearances”, and if so, what does it mean if you cannot achieve this goal? Are you worth less as a person?

Action: Each time you want to buy a new item consider the following:

First of all, walk away, do not buy it immediately. Only those items that you continue to remember then become truly considered.

Before you do buy it, shop in your own cupboards to see if you have a similar item already. We often buy items that are remarkably similar to those we have already. Is this really significantly different? Would you consider to move one item OUT of your home in order to move this item IN? As with the processes above conduct some form of opportunity cost analysis before you buy. Is this the best way for me to utilise HKD500?

Ask yourself: Would I get more joy taking a friend out to lunch, or taking a cooking class with a friend instead? When we look at deathbed regrets, it never seems to be mentioned that people need to buy more. What they regret is spending time with people, having experiences, and pursuing their goals.

Holding onto precious memories – sometimes we have items from the past, items that remind us of special occasions or people, and we hold onto them. This might include old clothes, books, photos, artwork, and even old tools or jewellery. Compiling precious memories may lead to accidental clutter. Some reflective work that may help.

Reflections: are you keeping items as a way to show people that they are important, or were important? If you lose these items, will those loved ones be less important? In what other ways, besides holding onto items, could you celebrate items from ancestors or loved ones. Perhaps you want to keep special photos of your children, or their artwork. Do you need to keep all of these items to demonstrate your support and love? What other actions could you undertake to show your love for the child featured.

Actions:  Consider ways to store precious items in alternative storage format. For example, take photographs of children’s artworks and building a virtual album. For items from ancestors consider selecting your favourite items and framing them so that they are displayed beautifully. Then you can potentially pass the other items from the collection away. Old jewellery could be redesigned. Old clothes could be made into sentimental pillows.

I hope these reflections and activities help. I intend to give them all a chance and I hope you will too. Try to build a habit to be more mindful of they items you already have, their purpose, and their meaning. Embrace change from a positive angle. Praise yourself for letting go. There is no shame in moving forward and learning to live with less.

#stuffocation #worldrecyclingday #recycling #declutter #mentalhealthessentials #reddoor

#mentalhealth #hoarding #minimalism #mariekondo

Get your teen to sleep.


teensleep2Schools often report that they see exhausted children coming through their gates every morning. Whilst there are arguments that the school day should start later, and that this would be of benefit to a lot of teens, the practicalities seem to make this not possible for now. We often have to work within reality, so helping teens adapt to the demands of their school schedule and get enough sleep in time to go to school refreshed is important.

Teens need to get around 9 hours of sleep a night. Many teens do not get this amount of sleep, and there are many reasons they do not get enough sleep. Given that learning is their job, they need to have the opportunity to optimise their ability to learn. Sleep is essential to maintain both physical and mental health.

The need to rest is evolutionary. Inactivity allows us to conserve energy, repair our mental and physical systems, rejuvenate our minds and bodies, process the events and lessons from the day, and maintain neuroplasticity (the ability to use all parts of our brain to continue to learn). Sleep is essential for teens to optimise their performance when they are awake.

There are various theories regarding the purpose of dreams, but all support the concept that REM sleep (dream sleep) is somehow important. It seems that REM sleep may act towards mental housekeeping – sorting events from short term memory to long term memory, building neural pathways to improve our procedural capabilities (knowing how to perform a task) and process our emotional responses to situations. A good nights’ sleep allows us to tidy away yesterday and face each new day ready to take charge

Lack of sleep compromises one’s ability to concentrate and respond rationally. Mood swings, irritability, problems learning, and increased risk of accidents are all associated with sleep debt or deprivation. When we deprive ourselves of an optimal amount sleep our personal sleep debt accumulates. Hence you may find that you spend the weekend attempting to pay back this sleep debt, and live in a compromised state every other day.

Over the long term, physical ailments occur if you do not receive enough sleep. Conditions attached to sleep debt and deprivation includes diabetes, weakened immunity systems, high blood pressure, lowered sex drive, heart conditions, and mental health issues such as clinical depression and heighted stress responses.

So the importance of sleep is clear, but getting teens to go to bed can be extremely difficult. Mention bedtime routines among parents of teens, and you will experience the universal rolling of eyes in exhaustion.  Our guidelines for parents include the following


Encouraging healthy sleep patterns for your teen.

Remember that YOU are the parent. The teenage years are a welcome reprieve after the constant care required through infancy and childhood. Your offspring can now dress themselves, travel independently, and organise themselves (occasionally). But teenagers aren’t fully cooked, and still require active support. Especially around boundaries of healthy and unhealthy behaviours. Whilst sleep and bedtime are bound to be the topic of many a parent teen conflict, I encourage you that this battle is well worth fighting for (verbally).

Set a regular bed time and help your teen keep to it. Having a regular bedtime trains your body to start to wind down in a trained fashion. Given that teens require 9 hours sleep, in order for them to rise well rested at 7am they need to be in bed, asleep by 10am. Do not rely only on the weekend to catch up on sleep.

Encourage naps.  Children resist napping as they get older. Try to encourage your teen to take a nap occasionally.

Break bad behaviours. Screens provide light and stimulate teens minds, in the worst way. In order to help your teen wind down for bedtime encourage them to put down their devices at least an hour before their bedtime. Be prepared to have a fight. No parent I know has installed tech free time, without an old-fashioned toddler worthy temper tantrum.  

Ready, Steady: Encourage your teen to get themselves ready for the next day the night before school, rather than in the morning. This will allow them to wake without stress, and go to bed assured that they are ready for the next day.

Turn up the calm. Taking a bath, writing in a journal, colouring pictures, drinking cocoa, listening to music, reading in bed all encourage the body to start to relax. Use the hour, or half hour before bed time to train your teen’s body to get ready to rest. Children who suffer from anxiety may benefit from guided mediations (on CD or tape or Ipod, not on the internet)  

 The bed as a nest.  A tidy room with minimal clutter, blackout curtains, weighted blankets all enhance the feeling of being settled in bed.

Reinforce positive sleep behaviours. When your teen goes to bed on time or get up in a good mood make sure that you make note. No teenager will admit it, but your praise is still important.

We have a new generation of people with our teens. We are raising a generation of people who have never NOT had access to the internet. Many of them carry and posses a personal computer or phone by the age of 12. They are, in the first world at least, privileged, unlikely to go hungry, can create a completely artificial self-image, have limitless mentors (both positive and negative. They will face a world of work beyond our experience, with many unknowns. So many things have changed. The need for sleep has not. Our new world teens, still the guidance of their new world parents.


#sleep #teens #mentalhealth  #rest #selfcare #sleepdeprivation #sleepdebt #sleeptrainning #mentalhealthessentials  #reddoor

Sleep training for adults.

adult sleep

Adults sometimes have the tendency to forget to take care of themselves. The first and foremost self-care act one can undertake is to ensure that we have enough sleep. We are exposed to various workaholic CEOs highlighting their choice to be productive at work, over catching the right amount of rest. Very few people benefit from emulating these sleepless elite. Getting enough sleep is extremely important to maintain both physical and mental health.

Adults (25-60) need between seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Do you get at least 7 hours of quality sleep?

The need to rest is evolutionary. Inactivity allows us to conserve energy, repair our mental and physical systems, rejuvenate our minds and bodies, process the events and lessons from the day, and maintain neuroplasticity (the ability to use all parts of our brain to continue to learn). Sleep is essential for adults to optimise their performance when they are awake.

There are various theories regarding the purpose of dreams, but all support the concept that REM sleep (dream sleep) is somehow important. It seems that REM sleep may act towards mental housekeeping – sorting events from short term memory to long term memory, building neural pathways to improve our procedural capabilities (knowing how to perform a task) and process our emotional responses to situations. A good nights’ sleep allows us to tidy away yesterday and face each new day ready to take charge

Lack of sleep compromises one’s ability to concentrate and respond rationally. Mood swings, irritability, problems learning, and increased risk of accidents are all associated with sleep debt or deprivation. When we deprive ourselves of an optimal amount sleep our personal sleep debt accumulates. Hence you may find that you spend the weekend attempting to pay back this sleep debt, and live in a compromised state every other day.

Over the long term, physical ailments occur if you do not receive enough sleep. Conditions attached to sleep debt and deprivation includes diabetes, weakened immunity systems, high blood pressure, lowered sex drive, heart conditions, and mental health issues such as clinical depression and heighted stress responses.

The benefit of achieving the optimal amount of sleep on a consistent basis include living longer, having a stronger immune system, rejuvenation of the skin and beauty, greater creative capabilities, improved productivity and concentration. The world is facing a global pandemic, so we need to be at our strongest to fight off this infection. So, what are you waiting for? Go to bed.

If only it was so easy?

Sleeping issues take time to develop and take time to overcome. A simple solution is to utilise sleeping medications. These medications are usually not intended for long term use as they can be addictive. They are best to help overcome acute sleep problems, is to learn to develop healthy sleep patterns.

Sleep training: the adult edition. Multiple books detail how to train babies and infants to fall and stay asleep. Just as you have to consistently practice sleep practices with children, repetition is important to achieve results with adults. Every time you break healthy sleep patterns (travelling, staying out late, all nighters at work) you may have to start your sleep training again


Building better sleep

Step 1: Sleep logs. You want to know what your sleep is like so that you have a baseline. In addition to your bedtime and wake up time, which should give you the number of hours you had at rest, you may want to rate your sleep. You can give yourself a score out of five – 1 point for achieving each of the following:

1 point if you fall asleep quickly – within 20 minutes of going to bed

1 point if you only experienced minor night time waking – you may be aware that you woke up, but fall back to sleep quickly, not need to get out of bed, or check your phone.

1 point if you are aware that you dreamed. You don’t need to be able to remember the content, but only if you had some dreams during sleep

1 point if you slept more than 7 hours

1 point if you woke in the morning feeling refreshed (within the first hour of waking).

Recording the quality of your sleep is as important as the quantity of your sleep.

Monitor for a few weeks whilst you try various other steps

Step 2: set a regular bed time. Having a regular bedtime trains your body to start to wind down in a trained fashion. Go to bed/ sleep at the latest by 11 pm. Try to wake up when you can experience morning light – so in Hong Kong that is around 7am. If you need to wake up at a specific time, plan your bedtime to be at least 8 or 9 hours ahead of that time.

Step 3: minimise stimulants ahead of bedtime.  This doesn’t only mean coffee or cola drinks, this includes screen time, TV, social media. Stop using devices an hour before bedtime. These devices keep your mind awake.  Instead use this time for calming activities

Step 4: Maximise calm activities and a calm routine. Taking a bath, writing in a journal, colouring pictures, drinking cocoa, listening to music, reading in bed, and massaging your muscles start to help your body obtain a resting state ahead of bed, and convey to your mind and body that sleep is coming.

Step 5: Build a nest. A tidy room with minimal clutter, blackout curtains, weighted blankets all enhance the feeling of being settled in bed.

Step 6: Eliminate mental clutter. As you go to bed consider how are you going to clear your mind. If you wake with ideas during the night, keep a pad and pen beside the bed so that you can jot down a prompt for the idea and go back to sleep immediately. Writing a journal before you go to bed is a wonderful exercise to empty your mind of worries gathered during the day. Praying and celebrating what you are grateful for also helps you create a sense of mental calm before you go to bed. For more information on the benefits of journaling see our blog on this issue. (

Step 7: catch up on debts. Sleeping for one single period, at night is a human evolutionary practice created in response to the world of work. In some cultures, and among other species, multiple periods of sleep is the norm. Consider a siesta occasionally, and see if napping is a benefit to you. This may help you catch up on your sleep debt, or help you recharge your batteries.


One last note – whilst much of the focus of this article is focused toward achieving enough sleep, there are also health problems related to sleeping too much. Oversleeping can be caused by other health problems, but also contributes to health problems. If you regularly sleep more than 10-12 hours a day please consult your doctor. Oversleeping has been associated with heart disease, diabetes, pain, obesity, depression and sleep apnoea. Too much sleep also impairs your cognitive function, so try to monitor your sleep, and look to set up healthy waking and sleeping patterns.


#sleep #mentalhealth  #rest #selfcare #sleepdeprivation #sleepdebt #sleeptrainning #mentalhealthessentials  #reddoor

Learn to (better) control your emotions.



As human begins, we may never have complete control over what we feel, but we do have a lot more influence over how we feel than you might have been told. Adults are expected to be able to manage their emotions – especially strong negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, and anger. Yet all of us have experienced instances where we’ve become overwhelmed with emotions and not felt as if we could control our actions around those feelings. We may in those instances act in a regrettable fashion, not go to an event where we were expected, miss the opportunity to travel, lashed out at a friend or family member.

How do we learn to keep our emotions in check? The key is emotional regulation and learning emotional self- regulation techniques. These skills allow you to manage your emotional reactions to the world. These are the skills of people who respond with emotion to a situation but do not continue to harbour or escalate those emotions beyond the initial expression (except in the case of bereavement where prolonged emotion may be expected). You can assess your self-regulation abilities in online tools ( which explains two important components of regulation – your ability to frame and reframe around your emotions (reappraisal) and your tendencies to supress emotion rather than express it (suppression).

If you have difficulty regulating your emotions you may need to utilise short term and longer-term sustainable solutions


Short term solutions.

Opportunities to create a quick sense of calm may be helpful to utilise when you are feeling strong negative emotions ( including breathing, repeating mantras, drinking water, colouring, journaling, listening to music, counting, exercise and stretching.

One strategy that can help you in the heat of the moment may be to utilise the STOPP tool outlined by psychologist Carol Vivyan. Essentially the STOPP is a mnemonic to remind you to.

S: Pause, take a break, slow down the events that are unfolding

T: take a breath.

O: Observe yourself, the situation, your reactions, your expectations of others.

P: Look at the situation from a matter of perspective – is this really an emergency, is action really required right now, will it be better for you to walk away from the situation or stay engaged.

P: Proceed with caution. Choosing to no react will help maintain your reputation and credibility. Walk away if you can.


Sustainable changes for long-term emotional regulation

To deal with to deal with emotional regulation include understanding and labelling emotions, exploring thought patterns, practicing mindfulness and cognitive reframing.  Build long term reflection skills.

Emotional monitoring Emotional monitoring is the backbone of mindfulness study. There are many tools to help people correctly identify and label emotions, whilst separating those that are primary emotions (those that occur immediately in reaction to an event) from those that are secondary – your reactions to the primary emotions, or emotions that linger longer because of thought patterns.

Physical experiences such as tension, butterflies in the stomach, headache, clenched jaw are observed and recorded.  Correctly helping identify the expression and experience of an emotion helps the client associate particular thoughts patterns associated with those emotions, or simply help them notice that they feel emotions they thought they had “lost”. Many people confuse feeling anxious with feeling angry and hence respond by lashing out, rather than behaviours that may help them calm down.

Thought patterns are essential to associate with certain emotions. These thought patterns may have been learnt over many years and may include catastrophising (this is the worst thing ever!), negative comparisons (She is so cool, I am such a loser), and mind reading (see my blog on common thinking errors). Essentially people are taught to catch these thinking patterns in action and reflect upon them from alternative perspectives. They may be asked to keep a log of negative events and how they felt about those events so that they can be discussed in terms of creating a more rational perspective on the situation being reviewed.

Some of the specific tools to assess emotional regulation (such as the CERQ- the cognitive emotion regulation questionnaire) helps to identify the cognitive strategies and thought patterns that people use in situations. As such you can identify the elements and thought patterns that might me making you feel the way you do.

For example, you may have a specific difficulty to blame yourself when things go wrong, or not accept that something bad has happened. You may find yourself caught up in rumination traps, where you cycle through events again and again to understand your feelings and how you got to this point (even if this is not achievable and the situation are the consequence of other people’s decisions or actions). You may or may not be able to refocus or reappraise the situation in a way that helps you overcome feelings (gaining perspective, seeing that this happens to a lot of people not just you, realise this could not be avoided).

Practicing Mindfulness helps individuals become more aware of their thought patterns, their emotions, their reactions, and the thoughts and feelings that they hold about certain events. Being mindful requires individuals to live in the present, not the past or the future. Taking this approach allows them to assess situations more empathetically with less self-judgment. Skills such as learning to observe, describe and be aware of your surroundings are taught, as well as practice assessing situations from a position of no judgement, being observant, and looking for effective outcomes

Once thought patterns and perspectives have been regularly assessed cognitive reframing and discourse can be utilised to teach a new set of responses. When you catch yourself overreacting to situations, ask yourself, could other outcomes be possible, can you be kinder to yourself in this situation, can you show empathy rather than anger. Create a dialogue that helps you look at yourself in a non-judgemental but still accountable manner. Do not use terms such a “should” or “I must”. Instead use language such as “I can”.

In the long term you may like to create long term reflection building tools. These activities help build not only reflection, but stronger mental health capabilities. Remember practice makes progress. These activities include: writing a journal, meditation, therapy with a counsellor, ensuring you have enough sleep, walking and talking to yourself, and of course, sharing your experiences with close friends.


There is a lot you can do to better manage your emotions and your reactions. Activities such as self-medication (especially through alcohol), self-harm, and escaping into your social persona through internet addiction, do NOT help. If you have been using these behaviours to help you manage strong emotions try some of the recommendations in this article. If you continue to struggle, please consider therapy. Good luck.


#reddoor  #mentalhealthessentials #emotionalintelligence #emotionregulation #mindfulness #mentalhealth #selfhelp #angermanagement #anxiety

Achieving Quick Calm


Here are 10 techniques to achieve a quick calm when you feel strong negative emotion or feel overwhelmed. 

1.       Take action – go for a quick jog, or perform 20 jumping jacks. Since you have to change your thinking you will find that you can distract yourself from your emotions for, just long enough, to catch your breath and, start to, consider your thoughts.

2.       Repeat a mantra – any quick phrase that reminds you to stay calm. For example, “let it slide off me like water off a duck’s back”. “I am enough”, “Its okay not to be okay”.

3.       Drink a glass of water.  If one glass is not enough, drink another glass.

4.       Counting – count backwards from 100. Simply focusing on another activity creates a break in the momentum of a situation and allows your thoughts to be distracted.

5.       Progressive relaxation exercises. Remove yourself from the situation and work on progressive relaxation tension and release activities. Progressive relaxation soothes the body as you tense and relax muscles – isolating and focusing exclusively on one group of muscles at a time. Begin with your toes, and work up through your muscles to your head, where you may focus on relaxing the muscles around your chin and eyes.

6.       Draw a picture, or colour a picture – draw a picture of your feelings, or of anything. Drawing a picture allows you to catch a breath and engage your creative mind.

7.       Music – listen to 5 minutes of calming music, or music that cheers your mood.

8.       Stretch – stretch your body out, spend 3-5 minutes releasing tension from your body.

9.       Strawberry and Candle breathing. Close your eyes and imagine yourself holding a strawberry. Breathe in and smell the strawberry. Breath in completely. Then blow out air, like you are blowing out a candle, a steady stream of air. Do this 10 times.

10.   Journal – journaling is an exceptional model to provide self-therapy. Even in a time of strong emotion, writing about your emotions can help you start to solve the situation as you write. You don’t need to share your thoughts.