Have you ever thought about how the information you take in is affecting your mental health?
I'm noticing more and more people mention how the state of the world is getting them down, making them feel anxious and hopeless, and I've noticed the same within myself. I notice when I limit my news intake to once a day, instead of each bulletin, I feel happier and more relaxed.
If we think about what we know about nutrition - we know that the body benefits from nutritional foods, and suffers under processed foods. Can we think of the mind in the same way? If we feed it a diet of fear and horror, that becomes our reality, unless we bring balance.
I'm not advising people to bury their heads in the sand, it's important to know what's happening in the world around you. However, we need to balance the bad with good.
There are some good news sites out there that are worth a look, such as the Good News Network, and Positive News. Other ideas would be to watch a comedy, or read a novel.
If you want to go a step further, you could take some action to make change such as volunteering with an organisation that captures your heart, writing a letter to your TD about an issue that matters to you, or make a donation to a charity. Taking action combats the feelings of helplessness we can sometimes feel in response to bad news.
Bring awareness to your mental diet this week, and see how it makes you feel.
“One reason that cats are happier than people is that they have no newspapers.”
Today is the third Monday of the New Year, and some say it's the most depressing day of the year. Most of us are still skint from Christmas until the paycheck comes in, lamenting the death of our New Year's resolutions, and dreaming of sunshine and warmth to take away the winter chill.
Some say there's no such thing as Blue Monday, and I don't want to debate it's reality today, instead, I wanted to share what I like about the idea.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates
This week in The Weekly Minute, two guided grounding practices, so the winds of life (and outside!!) don't blow us away.
It's important to have a grounding practice so we feel stable and rooted within ourselves. As we know, life can be full of surprises, and change is inevitable, but if you feel grounded, you'll be more able to face challenges without falling.
Think of a tree, they grow so tall and sturdy because they have strong roots under the earth.
Practice these a few times this week, so you get familiar with them, and they are in your toolbox, ready for when you reach for them.
“Flying starts from the ground. The more grounded you are, the higher you fly.”
Have you ever noticed how much thought can go into something, and the thing itself might never get done?
Maybe you had great plans for the exercise you were going to start in 2020 but the running shoes haven't hit the road yet?
Maybe there's a work project you've been mulling over and over in your mind but you haven't started yet because you're unsure how to start it, or afraid won't work out?
Maybe you have the January blues and you're mind is full of negative thoughts?
If any of these sound like you, see if you can bring your attention to the amount of mental energy you are giving to something, without actually doing anything about it. If your thinking is constructive, such as making solid plans and acting on them, or troubleshooting an issue, all good. But, if the thinking is sounding more like a broken record, and bringing feelings of negativity, then do something. Anything.
Take a walk.
Chat to a friend.
Get yourself out to a yoga or meditation class.
Take some action around the work issue, even if you're not sure it's the right action.
Do something to break the cycle of thinking, and get unstuck. Where there's movement, there's change.
"Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it's no longer a mistake. If you remain stuck, you learn nothing." - Eckhart Tolle
One of the things that really stuck with me from my training to become a therapist was also one of the most annoying things I heard. A tutor told us that we should encourage gradual change as opposed to radical change, as we humans handle change better when it is in smaller increments. He told us 10% was a good rule, "Only take the client 10% from where they are right now."
I remember being so disappointed when I heard this! I had notions of great eureka moments in which the client would dramatically drop old mindsets and begin new lives immediately! Over time, I saw the wisdom in what he told us. Sure, there are people who make bigger changes, and some who make smaller, but as a general rule, humans aren't fond of change and need to take bitesize pieces.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, New Years resolutions are often times when we try to make radical change, and then we get annoyed with ourselves when it doesn't work out. How about this year, try taking change slow. Set your resolution, and then break it into smaller goals of 10% chunks.
Slow and steady wins the race.... ;)
“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
The best gift you can give yourself or anyone else this Christmas is to be present.
When we are present, the mind can't wander into the past or the future, where worries and regrets live. Staying in the here and now allows us to connect with our lives and those in them as they are, and we often realise that life is better than we think.
This Christmas, try as best you can to stay in your senses, and not so much in your head. Set a reminder on your phone to prompt you to reconnect with what is actually happening: what you can see, hear, feel, and (not forgetting the dinner) smell. :)
You can also use the breath to come out of your head and into the body. If there's anxiety present, make the exhale a little longer than the inhale.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
My niece was wearing a sweater with this slogan on it: "When nothing goes right... go left."
I loved it, it's good advice. BUT, how do we actually do that? What does "going left" actually look like? Slogans like this, and inspirational quotes we see online are great, but how we use them to actually make our lives better?
Here are a few practical ideas for "turning left" when nothing seems to be going right:
Whichever method(s) you choose, the most important thing is to remember to take that step to the left, and ignore all the reasons your mind might have to not take that step!
"An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching." - Mahatma Gandhi
It's a busy time of year so this week, we'll keep it short and sweet.
Tension can build up in the body as we move through our day, so see if you can so a quick sweep from head to toe several times a day, looking for areas of tension. (pay extra attention to the head, shoulders, chest, and stomach)
If you find you are holding tension anywhere, direct the breath to those areas, one at a time, and invite them to relax.
As with anything, remembering to do this can be a challenge, so set a reminder on your phone, or put a post-it somewhere where you'll see it. (The kettle is a good spot, or your desk, your car, or even the bathroom! ;))
"It's very important that we re-learn the art of resting and relaxing. Not only does it help prevent the onset of many illnesses that develop through chronic tension and worrying; it allows us to clear our minds, focus, and find creative solutions to problems." - Thich Nhat Hanh
We are moving into what can be a busy and stressful time of year, and it's important to remember your relaxation techniques.
A super simple breath technique to stimulate the body's natural relaxation response is 4/7 breathing.
The beauty of this breath is that it can be done any time, waiting in traffic, waiting in a queue, at your desk at work, anywhere.
"But when you make one part of the breath cycle, either the inhale or the exhale, longer than the other, and you do this for several minutes, the accumulated effect is that you will either slow the heart rate down or speed it up from where you started." - Baxter Bell MD
We can often feel like victims of time: maybe we've noticed how quickly it passes from one week to the next, or a feeling that we never have enough time in a day to get everything done, or maybe we've noticed our youth fading and how helpless we are to turn back the clock.
However, time can be a friend if we learn to see it as one.
Many people say they're too busy to do the things that feed them--they just don't have the time to meditate, they're too busy to do yoga, or take that walk. But, these are the very things that calm us, and take us out of stress mode. When we are calmer, we are more focused, efficient, and more resilient, leaving us in a better position to use our time well.
Also, time is a healer. The only certainty we have in life is that things change, and if we allow time to do it's thing, we see how our feelings change, no feeling, either good or bad, lasts forever, and this can be a great comfort if we let it.
Lastly, we can recognise that time is always on the march, and in light of that, how will you live your life? Each day counts, so what will you do today that is worthwhile? As Eric Thomas says: "Change your 24 hours and you will change your life"
"Life, if well lived, is long enough." - Seneca
The Weekly Minute is a blog I write each week with the aim of providing legitimate tools to help promote positive mental health.
The collection of short, practical mindfulness and therapy tools for self-reflection and self-improvement, can equip people to take their mental well-being into their own hands, and improve their quality of life.
The Weekly Minute is posted here every Monday, or you can sign up to get it delivered to your inbox via the link below.
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