Work deadlines, family and social commitments, the constant influx of emails and social media posts, incessant negative news and, of course, the looming presence of Covid-19 in everything we say and do this year.
Let’s stop. Take a deep breath in . . . 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, slowly exhale out and then try these tips to nourish your mind. You’ll be surprised how effective these quick exercises can be if you allow yourself a couple of minutes to soothe your mind without any distractions.
Write down a negative thought that keeps playing on your mind. Now rip or scrunch the paper up and throw it away. Studies have found that this simple technique helps you to mentally discard the negative thought.
Close your eyes and think of a happy time in your life for a few seconds. The memory will give your mind a boost and optimise your mental outlook for the day.
Write down a positive thought about yourself. It may be a memory, a personality trait you value, a friend you trust, anything really. Just make sure it is something that makes you smile inside and gives you a sense of calm. Now tuck this paper into your pocket. This effectively protects that thought and reinforces it in your mind.
Sit or stand up straight with your shoulders back and head facing forward. This should have an immediate positive impact on your self-confidence. The alternative stance of curling towards your stomach is a classic defence posture; you are subconsciously telling your mind that you are in an unsafe environment. This has a knock on effect on your thoughts and feelings. Instead, protect your posture as much as you can and notice any difference it makes to your outlook.
Look out of the window and search for a bird flying in the sky. Notice the beauty, grace and joy with which it flies. Alternatively, look for a tree and start counting its branches. Notice the multiple autumnal tones and intricate details. Thousands of studies have shown nature’s positive impact on our mental health. By doing this exercise you are bringing a level of attention and mindfulness that may have eluded you previously when glancing outside.
We are all living through a unique event in the history of the world and the toll it is taking on our mental health is undeniable. The busier and more overwhelmed you feel, the more important it is to look after your mental health and prioritise your wellbeing. Take as much time as you can to nurture your mind, even two minutes a day can make a profound difference.
Having some extra tools up your sleeve to methodically ‘turn things around’ can help – especially when your heart feels like it’s sunk into your feet, your stomach is churning like a mis-guided attempt at making yoghurt in mixing bowl and your ability to face the day has disappeared quicker than a ‘Boris promise’.
So here are a few bullets to add to your armoury of tools for those ‘on the floor but still breathing’ days that seem to be coming increasingly thick and fast:
“Energy Breeds Energy”
This is my favourite quote from my dear friend and Geordie wise-arse / Yogi-extraordinaire Caroline Lofthouse. Make just one change: apply a different energy to the things you always do. Walk lightly. Eat toast sternly. Yawn aggressively… you get the idea.
Go on, have a play. Get out (outside / out of town / out in the open / out of your usual altitude / out of the country).
A change in the way that you see things is more likely to happen within a place that has different things to see. Even being upside down can make a difference.
Try on Somebody Else’s Shoes Dust off your childhood fantasy issues…if you’re in lockdown, there is nothing to be lost by allowing yourself to dress like (and become) the inner superhero that you always wanted to be. Just for a day. Unleash your inner Lenny Kravitz-Teresa May love-child creation!
(Wait, come back! I was just giving an example…was that a bit much?)
Talk to your friends… Or even better, challenge your friends with something ridiculous but harmless. Maybe challenge them to be YOUR inner superhero and get them to challenge you with being THEIR inner superhero? Maybe a Napoleon Dynamite dance-off? Maybe see who can learn to play a Bruno Mars tune on a Ukelele the quickest?
The ‘Ice-Bucket challenge’ or the ‘Bottle-top challenge’ had to start SOMEWHERE, right?
Set yourself a challenging, but surprising achievable challenge … and then achieve it. This has to be something that you can do, within the day/hour/minute, that requires you to push yourself but not break yourself (physically or mentally). Example: throw on a proper TUNE and challenge yourself to dance ALL OUT until the very end of the track, without stopping. Goal setting and exercise, all in one.
Give yourself credit Remember to pat yourself on the back and allow yourself to feel proud of yourself when you get the ‘win’. Learn a new word and try to slip it into conversation as many times as you can in a day
The more ridiculous the word, the better. German words are brilliant as many of them have no English equivalent but express something that we all feel from time to time. No matter what you choose to do, just remember that it’s all about breaking old patterns.
One change to a pattern of default behaviour can make a huge difference. It’s part of the reason that playing music that has a feel and tempo that doesn’t follow your default pace and rhythm can be such a powerful mood changer.
Make one change, today. Make another tomorrow, make them count.
Lockdowns force us to remain within controlled environments. There’s nothing better than a controlled environment for experimenting with something new … Just saying.
[Aaand…because I like music…aaand this article is for Create4MentalHealth, here are two music vids to rock your world and fire you up: John Mayer talking guitar (but actually talking ‘life’)
and a severely underrated guitar hero Mike Dawes playing ‘Jump’ as a tribute to the late, great Eddie Van Halen.]