TRE and the Vagus Nerve

In the article, Hacking the Nervous System, the importance of vagal tone in our health is discussed. Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE), deep breathing and meditation all activate and improve the health of the vagus nerve.

Hacking the Nervous System

The vagus nerve ‘wanders’ through our body connecting to our organs and conveying sensory information to and from the Central Nervous System. It is the information highway connecting the body to the brain and is vital for keeping our bodies healthy.

What is Happiness?

Everybody wants happiness, nobody wants pain, but you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.”  Unknown

What does happiness mean to you?

Defining happiness can seem as elusive as achieving it. We want to be happy, and we can say whether we are or not, but can it really be defined, studied and measured?

Martin Seligman, one of the leading researchers in positive psychology and author of Flourish – A New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, has developed the PERMA Model. “PERMA” stands for the five essential elements that should be in place for us to experience lasting well-being. These are:

  1. Positive Emotion (P)

For us to experience well-being, we need positive emotion in our lives. Any positive emotion such as peace, gratitude, satisfaction, pleasure, inspiration, hope, curiosity, or love falls into this category – and the message is that it’s really important to enjoy yourself in the here and now, just as long as the other elements of PERMA are in place.

  1. Engagement (E)

When we’re truly engaged in a situation, task, or project, we experience a state of flow: time seems to stop, we lose our sense of self, and we concentrate intensely on the present.This feels really good! The more we experience this type of engagement, the more likely we are to experience well-being.

  1. Positive Relationships (R)

As humans, we are “social beings,” and good relationships are core to our well-being. Time and again, we see that people who have meaningful, positive relationships with others are happier than those who do not. Relationships really do matter!

  1. Meaning (M)

Meaning comes from serving a cause bigger than ourselves. Whether this is a specific deity or religion, or a cause that helps humanity in some way, we all need meaning in our lives to have a sense of well-being.

  1. Accomplishment/Achievement (A)

Many of us strive to better ourselves in some way, whether we’re seeking to master a skill, achieve a valuable goal, or win in some competitive event. As such, accomplishment is another important thing that contributes to our ability to flourish.


Empowering our Youth

“The route through childhood is shaped by many forces, and it differs for each of us. Our biological inheritance, the temperament with which we are born, the care we receive, our family relationships, the place where we grow up, the schools we attend, the culture in which we participate, and the historical period in which we live–all these affect the paths we take through childhood and condition the remainder of our lives.” Robert Wozniak

I have just witnessed the graduation of 189 young men aged between 18 and 25 from Chrysalis Academy. Chrysalis Academy is an initiative of the Western Cape Provincial Cabinet, established in 2000 at Porter Estate, Tokai. Its founding was a response by the Provincial Government to the high crime rate in the Western Cape, which is one of the highest among the provinces in South Africa, especially due to substance abuse and an active gang culture in Cape Town’s mainly disadvantaged communities. Some of the young men come into the program having very little awareness and consciousness of their choices in life, but after the initial 3 month live-in empowerment training that focuses on the individual’s physical, emotional, mental, energetic and spiritual development they are able to understand and apply Dr Wayne Dyers quote:

“Everything you do is based on the choices you make. It’s not your parents, your past relationships, your job, the economy, the weather, an argument or your age that is to blame. You and only you are responsible for every decision and choice you make. Period.”

The message the CEO sent them home with when they left the safe environment of Chrysalis Academy was – ‘To all our graduates and their families – we must remember that individual transformation is a lifelong journey of rediscovery which requires perseverance, patience and compassion and we must be sufficiently brave to embark on this journey and navigate the stormy waters that we will all encounter in our lives.’

I salute Chrysalis Academy for the wonderful work they are doing! For more information on Chrysalis Academy go to

Post Traumatic Growth

People often ask me how I manage to work with trauma, especially in this wonderful but violent country that we live in. Results of several studies show that trauma does not need to be shattering and debilitating and that most people are resilient and even grow in the wake of a trauma.

The Post Traumatic Growth Inventory developed by R Tedeschi and L Calhoun in 2006 measures positive outcomes reported by persons who have experienced traumatic events. These positive outcomes include:

  • new possibilities that have arisen from the trauma
  • improvement in relating to others
  • personal strength improvement
  • spiritual change
  • greater appreciation of life

In the video below Dr Megan McElheran speaks about how we need to stay engaged in both our inner world and the outer world so that we can begin healing from a trauma.

The Power of Introverts

One of the most empowering discoveries I made about 22 years ago was that I am an introvert. However, our society prizes extroverts and it is not always easy living as an introvert in an extrovert world.

Evidence shows that introverts are more sensitive than extroverts to different types of stimulus, and that introverts and extroverts often need very different levels of stimulation to function at their best. Introverts and extroverts also draw their energies from different sources – introverts from solitude and extroverts from interacting with others.

In the video below, Susan Cain, the author of ‘Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’, speaks about how dramatically our society under values introverts, and how much it loses in doing so. Cain defines introverts as ‘men of contemplation’ who may enjoy the company of others, but are also comfortable with solitude. Introverts are sensitive, contemplative, modest and calm, and spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting. They can enjoy social occasions, but need restorative time alone afterwards.

Are you an introvert in an extrovert world?
Once you understand what your strengths are and where you are on the introversion/extroversion continuum you can consciously situate yourself in environments favourable to your personality.

One of my coaching services is a Jung Typology Test that can assist in exploring your strengths and understanding where you are on the introvert/extrovert continuum. Contact me for more information.

Daring Greatly

In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown refers to a speech given by Teddy Roosevelt in 1910. In it, Roosevelt said:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

I have spent many years watching school sport and admire the courage that children have to get into the ‘arena’. I have been to very few matches where parents have not yelled from the sidelines – criticizing passes, moaning when players make mistakes, judging the selectors and coaches, and complaining about the incorrect decisions that the referees and umpires always seem to make. Are you one of those parents?

I thank all our children, coaches, selectors, referees and umpires for getting out into the arena and to dare greatly. Without them we would not have had all those enjoyable moments of being next to our friends on the side of a sports field; and without them we would ultimately not have international sport!

  • Where in your life are you the critic?
  • Where in your life are you not ‘daring greatly’ and getting into the arena?

The Melancholy of Change

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”

Anatole France


“He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality”

Anwar Sadat


“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’.”