The power of noticing

It is a cold winter’s day and nothing is going well. Life feels mundane at best, taxing at worst, to say the least. There is nothing to look forward to on the horizon and the news is all bad.


We must all have had times like this, perhaps it is life for you right now. Lately, I have heard it said in more than one quarter, that ‘Keeping going is an achievement in itself’. I have found myself wondering, though, is this the goal? Don’t we sometimes just want to stop, and rest? Rest from the need to do so much, and from all the voices and beliefs that we are so used to we take them for granted as the way things have to be.


Nowadays, advice on self-care abounds in articles like this one, podcasts, books. We are getting the message that taking care of our mental as well as physical well-being, our emotional health as well as our bodily fitness, is central to helping us keep going, and, even more, to helping us to be well and do well. 

Sometimes advice such as walking in nature, journaling, talking with a friend, doing some power exercises while waiting for the kettle to boil, hits the spot. But I must admit, sometimes it can feel like another pressure, more to fit into a tight timetable, something else at which to keep going, no matter that the suggested, life-improving skill is designed to be time-efficient and user friendly. 

Sometimes, it is all more than we might have the energy for or will to take on board. 

There is a comedy sketch sometimes shown to trainee therapists where a client visits a counsellor for the first time. To every difficulty she raises, the counsellor’s immediate response is, “Stop it!” It is very funny because it is the total antithesis of what happens in the therapeutic relationship. Nevertheless, built into every piece of good advice or sound suggestion on promoting your well-being and self-care is the hidden notion that you must, ‘Stop it!’ Stop whatever you are doing, stop doing the nothing you are not doing, and take up this action or belief instead. 

Of course, we are free to choose. Everything out there is an offering, made generously, and we can walk whichever path through the woods we like, even if it involves bumping into trees. But here is another suggestion: don’t stop, necessarily, but start. Start noticing

Start noticing

What is already keeping you going? Is it the sound you chose for your morning alarm? Is it the smile from the neighbour you don’t really know but with whom you always share a greeting when you cross paths? Is it the cup of tea and ten minutes with a magazine that you allow yourself mid-morning?

Perhaps it is the moment when you give yourself that mantra, the one you have developed over the years. Perhaps it is the fact that you care for the people in your life, or what you believe about what you are doing with your time. 

As you start to notice what you are already doing or experiencing in terms of self-care, you may begin to:

  • Relax a little, as you feel encouraged by the ways you support yourself or are noticed by others.
  • Realise what helps you most and allow more space for it.
  • Experience what may be unhelpful about your current habits and ways of thinking and begin to make small changes.
  • Discover and be more open to relatable suggestions for well-being.
  • Be more tuned into the overall rhythm and pattern of your year, term, week, and your energy levels, moods and emotions.
  • Be kinder to yourself as you begin to recognise and value your small, daily achievements.

The power of noticing in this way never gets old. It slows us down, but in a way that is enriching. It sounds like nothing but can lead to small changes that make a powerfully positive impact. It can also show us where we might need more help and give us the confidence to begin to find it.

Most importantly, it comes from within. Noticing what we are already thinking, believing, doing, helps us to see where we are already doing well, what is working for us now, and, without telling us that we must change to have a better life, be a better person, it makes us more able to live as well as we can. It helps us to feel a little bit better about ourselves, and a little bit more confident in the kindness of those who want to help.

What comes from within is always stronger than what is put upon us, but when our own awareness connects with a good suggestion, new idea, or act of kindness, the two together can pull us out of a winter’s day into one with a hint of Spring. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Harrogate, HG2 0ET
Written by Emma Garrow, MBACP (Accred.)
Harrogate, HG2 0ET

Emma Garrow MBACP
Emma is a counsellor with an affordable agency and in private practice as Beech Tree Counselling. In her work she has witnessed the value of developing self-awareness and seen how encouragement is integral to the counselling process. She offers therapy in North Yorkshire, over the telephone and online.

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