Loneliness and it’s subtle opportunities – by Rasha Barrage

Loneliness can be the saddest of ironies. The challenges life brings means that we are all inevitably susceptible to it at some stage, regardless of how popular we may seem or how busy our schedule is. Some say it is a social pandemic of our time. And yet, most people experience it in silence and those that are suffering work and live side by side but remain invisible to each other.

Don’t suffer in silence

Personally, the sensation of loneliness has consumed me at very different stages in my life. The problem was that the most effective solutions for it, namely talking and socialising, were usually out of reach. Friends, family, support groups or even therapy were not available to me and therefore causing the loneliness in the first place. 

How can you “talk it over” or “open up”  if you feel you have no one to talk with, or that will understand where you’re coming from? What if you’re living far from home, or struggling financially? How can you find solace in phone calls alone if you’re prevented from travelling to see your loved ones when you need them?

Being surrounded by people is also no guarantee against loneliness. My best efforts to talk it through with someone else did not always work. I remember trying to talk to a friend on one occasion but it proved impossible as they were overwhelmed with their own issues. Another time, I tried to speak to my doctor and struggled to articulate myself. And so the loneliness continued.

Can feel lonely even when surrounded by friends

Writing now from a different mental space, I want to share what helped me in my loneliest times in the hope that I might assist someone feeling the same isolation. These actions enabled me to have the courage to either start connecting with others again or to move beyond the loneliness to a place of contentment. 

Giving time

One action that has always lifted my spirits and provided a fresh perspective to my thoughts is volunteer work. A recent study in the US and Canada found that people volunteering or supporting others during the Covid-19 pandemic had higher positive emotions and were happier with their relationships on the days when they helped others compared to the days when they did not engage in these activities. 

Helping can really help

Consider whether you might be in a position to offer help to someone in need. For example, perhaps you know of a neighbour living alone, a single parent, a homeless shelter or youth club that would appreciate some assistance. Alternatively, you can search for websites of organisations that require support online. 


I could recount many stories of how creativity has saved me at different times, including the occasions when I moved abroad without any contacts or lacked money to always meet friends. 

Poetry, cooking, drawing, painting, collage making, photography, film making, writing, knitting, dancing… the possibilities are endless and the benefits can be immediate. If you’re not sure how to start something creative, you could always begin with a journal and write or doodle your thoughts down to see where it leads you.

Draw, paint, doodle, take pictures, sing a tune,


A study published in 2020 found that wisdom may protect against loneliness and provide a potential intervention against it. Though I never labelled it as ‘wisdom’, I realise that a lot of my reading is an attempt to make sense of life and its complexity. I would not call myself wise, but I believe that some lessons learned through reading have helped me to gain resilience and hope. 

Maybe you can increase the time you devote to reading or perhaps try authors that are known for tackling issues such as mental health or mindfulness. You will be surprised how many discoveries you can make if you simply search online for ‘wise’ books and authors.

While the sensation of loneliness can sometimes feel all-consuming, it is important to remember that it is not forever and the circumstances creating it will most certainly pass. Until that day comes, exercising your kindness, your creativity or your curiosity may be just what you need to see you through.

Two minutes of self care – by Rasha Barrage

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.

Take a deep breathe

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 negative thoughts, then scrunch up the paper

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

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 positive thoughts and tuck them in your pocket

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 up straight with your shoulders back

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.

Count branches on a tree

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.

Take time to nurture your mind

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.

Follow Rasha on Twitter @rashabarrage

Some days just suck … Lockdowns can feel even worse – by Jon Chu.

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”

Inner 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). 

Take a bike ride
Take a different route home

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? 

Talk to friends
Chat with a friend

The ‘Ice-Bucket challenge’ or the ‘Bottle-top challenge’ had to start SOMEWHERE, right?

Set yourself a challenging, but surprising achievable challengeand 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

celebrate the little wins
Give yourself credit

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.

Try art
Try something new.

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.]

We all need a little me time

Self care sounds like a given, but we all seem to be too busy to actually do it. so we are encouraging everyone to take a few hours out of their busy lives to look after yourself.

here are a few things we can all do that are either free … or at least really cheap. Try a herbal tea and a mud mask. Phone off, music on curl up on your sofa and take some time for yourself.
If you have any tips for us … we would love to hear from you.

Hood up, head down – by Justin

Something I am sure we all do is avoiding people and eye contact. Hunched shoulders, headphones in, music on loud. Someone told me a few months ago about looking at chimneys, didn’t really pay much attention at the time. But recently I’ve been trying to be a bit more positive, don’t know why it came to me but it did, so thought I would give it a go. Warm sunny day helped as I wandered into town.

No chance of wearing a hoody that day. So I looked at shop names while I was walking, looking just above everyone walking past and still avoiding eye contact of course. Looking buildings rather than the floor.

It was strange at first but it did give me more confidence. It does sounds weird I know but it actually worked. It makes you push your shoulders back and my chest out, breathing more deeply and feeling a bit better about myself.
I have to remind myself to do it cos its not something I would do naturally at all. But its something I certainly think can work for everyone. 

Getting outdoors – By Alisha

When things are quite bad I tend to not want to be around anyone. The key thing that helps me is getting outdoors and out of my usual surroundings, whether it be a drive to somewhere like box hill or walking around a local park. It gives my mind a second to breathe; particularly when going to big open spaces- being by rivers/ the sea helps the most.

Another thing that personally help me when things aren’t too great is painting- you don’t have to be the next Van Gough or have anything in particular to paint- just sitting and messing around with paint on a canvas or paper is somewhat cathartic and can be a good way to take my mind off of things and channel the negative energy I feel into something else.

I’ve recently made more regular visits to the gym which also help greatly; i find myself focusing on what I’m doing as opposed to thoughts in my head which helps. On the days that I feel will descend into bad mental health days I make sure I speak to friends/ arrange to see them as I know this will help to prevent my mental state declining.

Creative Expression – by Josh

From my own experience I’ve found that for me being active, as challenging as it may be sometimes, is without a doubt the best way for me to clear my head when it’s cloudy. I’ve tried so many hobbies to help me with this, some I did okay with and others I failed at but I kept trying more and more things until eventually drumming landed its way into my life. I’m not saying drumming or music is the key, everyone has his or her own interests and activities they enjoy but for me this really was a game changer in my life.

When I have a hard day mentally or physically, an hour of drumming is like therapy for my mind and body. Yes it aches and I have blisters but I really do enjoy it, as I feel accomplished in myself. I’m not doing it to impress anyone or to make money, it’s there to just help me find myself and I think everyone needs to have an outlet like that in his or her life. It’s very important to express yourself freely and art is such a beautiful way to do that, creatively is something everyone has in them, it’s an expression of yourself make sure you find a way to let it out.

I honestly cannot express how grateful I am to have music to help me vent my negativity away; it’s saved me in the darkest points of my life. Art is everywhere; there is no limit to what is seen as creative. Express yourself, be active and create your own art for yourself.

Kingston Carnival 2019

2020 marks 20 years since the start of Kingston carnival, hosted by Kingston Race Equality Council here in Kingston upon Thames.

Kingston Carnival was set up by KREC an amazing organisation that “work towards the elimination of racial discrimination and associated inequalities. Promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups. To address the Human Rights and needs of all communities”
Its organisations such as these that we at create4mentalhealth are honoured to be involved with, helping and supporting each other to achieve goals that support individuals everywhere.

Let us help Becky 💛

Becky has some simple advice for people everywhere …. Lets keep everyone safe so lives can get back to normal soon

This is Becky …. Animation by the amazing @violawangstudio. This animation is as relevant now as it was back in March when we made it. A few simple rules that we all need to follow.

Trying something different

After having one of those tricky weeks that we have all had, we needed to get some our mojo back. So we thought we would try something a bit different, something that we have not done since school. We messaged our friends @banquetrecords, grabbed some wooden pallets and hatched a plan.

We thought it would be a great idea to make a seating area in the garden. Something that was free and looked cool. We honestly had no idea what we were doing, but that’s the point. That’s why we did it. It was important that we tried to do something as a team that we could be proud of and more importantly learn something new. (learning what not to do mostly)

It was great to know that what ever happened was a bonus, the wood was free, the tools had been borrowed … you will be amazed how many friends have power tools.Knowing we could make a total mess of everything and still enjoy the experience.We of course made sure we were safe, socially distanced and did our best to not annoy the neighbours.

No matter how big or small your idea is … to just do it. What ever you feel like doing: make, mend, customise, glue, paint, glitter.  What’s the worst that can happen?
If we messed up (and we did loads) … well ok, they were just pallets we got for free. We can always get another pallet and start again.
Don’t let the challenge itself hold you back. There were times when we wish we hadn’t started, or chosen something a bit more simple but the sense of achievement was and still is a with us.   

And for those people who make pallets … you guys do an amazing job. So well put together, and so difficult to get apart.