The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day. The theme for this year is to do one thing for better mental health.
According to research at Mind of 16,000 people, half of the adults and over two-thirds of young people said their mental health got worse during lockdown.
All week I have been posting my top tips on my social media to help improve our mental health wellbeing.
Why am I doing this?
I’m a Leadership Energy Coach and the energy I coach my clients to develop is linked to wellbeing and resilience.
Mental health wellbeing features as part of our overall well being. When I work with clients on wellbeing it encompasses our physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health. If we can focus on getting the balance right we can flourish and thrive in all aspects of our life.
Sadly, all too often, mental health issues are treated differently to complaints we have when faced with physical ill-health. The stigma attached to openly talking about mental health often leaves people feeling isolated and ashamed.
In my youth, I certainly do not remember anything else but hushed tones when my parents talked about people in our family with mental health problems. The caution in their voices stemmed from their experience of isolation for people with mental health, discrimination which stopped them from having the same rights, persecution and ridicule. Although those days have thankfully passed the discrimination and persecution persists.
Change is necessary and that’s why days like this are important. They give us all the opportunity to talk about our mental health.
While driving yesterday, the DJ played an instrumental version of One day like this by Elbow. It was part of the radio station’s own drive to encourage people to think about how they are feeling with regard to their mental health while listening to music.
Having the words to describe how we are feeling is key to supporting people’s mental health. Being clear about the feeling then helps you identify a way to resolve those feelings if they are stopping you from enjoying your life.
As a Headteacher I was fortunate to work with an amazing author Jonny Zucker. He opened up new libraries in each of the schools I led. In the last school, he was our author in residence, visiting each term to work the children over a number of years. I knew Jonny really well, I had worked with him for a period of about 10 years.
In 2016, sadly, Jonny took his life. My community were devastated to find out what had happened. Even more so when we found out his death had occurred many months earlier.
Jonny’s family and friends knew about his depression and obsessive behaviours, but he kept them hidden from many people in his life. I wonder if Jonny and others like him were able to say openly and without any concern how they were feeling, without the worry of discrimination or ridicule that maybe we would not be seeing the huge increases in suicides year on year.
Something has to change and in the spirit of #HopefulOctober, I know it is on the way.
These charities and more have amazing resources to help you learn more about mental health and one step you can take.
The tips I shared this week were ones which we can all use daily. They allow us to take notice of how we are feeling. Identifying how we feel is a key tool that we can all use when identifying the state of our own mental health. I use each of them all the time. They help me keep my emotions in a positive zone.
This is really helpful if you are feeling very sad.
The aim is to balance your autonomic nervous system which is out of balance and favouring either your parasympathetic or sympathetic nervous system which may be triggered.
Two simple ways:
💚 Try some coherent breathing, six in and six out or five in and five out for a minute. Imagine you are breathing through your heart. This is a perfect quick pick me up.
💚 Alternatively, stop what you are doing, and move. Around your house, around your office. Take a step outside and look up and out.
By moving your body and getting your heart beating a little differently you can shake off those sad feelings.
This is a wonderful way to even out erratic mood swings which can be associated with poor mental health. The overly exuberant and very low moods can be tiring for the mind and body.
Joy is an emotion which I associate with movement. It has a lightness but at the same time great weight.
#joypotting in your daily life helps to focus the mind out in the world and can calm uneven thoughts. These spots of joy in our day take us out of our head and connect us to the wider world around.
To take joy back to its roots – coming from an Old French word ‘joie’ which was based on a Latin word Gaudium from the verb gaudere which means ‘rejoice’.
Spot joy, rejoice and boost your happy hormones!
A daily dose of gratitude does wonders for your mental health wellbeing. I consciously started this habit many years ago when I realised that I was going to bed thinking of all the bad things that had happened in my day. The constant worrying was playing havoc with my mental state. The constant fearful thoughts were affecting my mental and physical health. The thoughts disrupted my sleep patterns and I woke up tired and stressed.
I read an article on gratitude and started to keep a daily diary noting down things for which I was grateful. It might have been a conversation, a smile, a connection with a colleague. Over the years I have captured gratitude by taking photos of beautiful natural scenes, writing a Ta-Da list at the end of the week and I still write a diary every night. It’s very short as this works well for me and my nighttime routine.
The physiological benefits of gratitude have been supported by the Dalai Lama as well as science leaders.
💚 It increases positivity
💚 It improves self-esteem
💚 It definitely helps you sleep better
💚 It can make you happier
💚 It also reduces stress
So why not give it a go? You decide what you want to write or draw. There is no right or wrong way. Just your way.
One of the precursors to very poor mental health is social withdrawal. Now with social distancing with us for at least the next 6 months, it is vital for all of us to connect with others.
Chronic social isolation can have a debilitating effect on our mental health.
It can induce persistent fear, hypersensitivity and increased aggression and make people lash out.
We all might know someone in our lives who finds it a real challenge to connect due to health conditions, distance, they might have no family nearby, limited finances etc. That’s where we can all step in and help.
Small steps can really help.
💚 A telephone call to someone who lives on their own
💚 A smile when out shopping to someone walking by
💚 Invite someone for a virtual or real-life coffee and make them laugh
💚 Volunteer for a charity or foodbank
Look up and out and connect with someone in your network today.
Exactly what It says on the tin.
Put on a coat, get on your boots and open the door.
Natural light helps boost our immune system. Spending time outside has been proven to help with anxiety and depression. There are many therapists and coaches who use outdoor work as a form of ecotherapy as they know it helps improve our mental health wellbeing.
Getting outside gives you a natural dose of Vitamin D which you can supplement in the form of D3. Vitamin D has been proven to support our immune systems and thus support to keep us healthy and able to fight infections including Covid-19.
At this time of the year if you live in the Northern hemisphere many of us can be affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Getting outside in the morning can really help.
Other benefits include –
💚 Free aromatherapy – stop and smell the roses
💚 It can really boost your creative thinking
💚 It provides you with exercise that you can’t do indoors
Get outside today, check your emotions before and after and see if there is a change.
So to conclude, in the words of Guy Edward and Elbow:
Throw those curtains wide!
One day like this a year’d see me right
Throw those curtains wide!
One day like this a year’d we’ll sing it right