Nature mental health

Immersing ourselves in nature is vital for our mental health

Nature mental health

Looking after our mental health is such an important part of our lives, especially during a pandemic and the uncertainty that surrounds that. We have now approached spring this year which means more opportunities for good weather and actively going outdoors. As restrictions start to ease with the rule of 6 or meeting two households outdoors, now is a perfect opportunity to look at getting more fresh air and spending time outside, wherever you are.

According to an article by the Guardian, research suggests that: “A two-hour “dose” of nature a week significantly boosts health and wellbeing.” This can be in the city or the countryside, wherever you prefer to spend your time. If you can find a large green space near to where you live such as a forest, park, garden or public field, those spaces are equally beneficial than a walk down a street or city centre. It’s important to find areas of the outdoors which resonate with you more and help with your mental health. Comparing your mental health experience to someone else’s isn’t going to be beneficial in the long run as everyone experiences mental health differently and it’s important to recognise that. If you find walking in a city centre benefits you more than walking in an open space or vice versa, work with that and look at reducing any pressure you may put on yourself because your preference may be different to another person.

There is a significant link between physical exercise and the outdoors. Most outdoor exercises such as running, walking, cycling and group sports are very beneficial for our mental health – improving our mood and releasing endorphins into the body. Finding a group of people who enjoy the sports/activities you enjoy can also be helpful because spending time with people can be a good addition for improving our mental health.

As we start to work from the office a bit more as well as working from home, if you find yourself struggling to focus at the desk, take some time to have a walk outside which will help rebalance that focus for your work. Also everyone loves some sun in their day and being outdoors with the sun increases your intake of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body to function overall, improving absorption of calcium and reducing inflammation.

When walking in the outdoors within open spaces, you can look at practising mindfulness and breathing exercises which can also link to meditation and positive affirmations. Mindfulness is known to reduce stress and according to an article by mentalhealth.org, there is a method when spending time outdoors in forests called ‘forest therapy’ or ‘forest bathing’ (which is known as Shinrin Yoku in Japan). This involves being aware of the surroundings around us and actively going through all our senses.

There are some great nature ideas for any time of the year. These include: gardening, planting and growing your own food, having plants inside the home, helping the environment and connecting with wildlife and animals. Trying creative activities outdoors can be a big boost for your mental health. Painting a picture, journalling, writing a story and working on some DIY can be great additions to spending more time outdoors.

Remember that mental health is just as important as physical health so we as human beings must remember to take care of ourselves during this time, especially with more uncertainty than we’re used to. Practice methods that work for you – going for a stroll outside within nature can be a good first step to take.


Social media phone

How to do a social media detox: 8 tips

Social media phone

Social media has become a huge part of modern life. It helps us stay connected with loved ones, catch up on news, and discover inspiring people and beautiful destinations. Yet, spending hours scrolling through various feeds may leave you feeling drained or dissatisfied.

If it is negatively impacting your mental wellness, productivity and/or creativity, you’re probably in need of a detox. So here are 8 ideas that will help you disconnect and have a happier, healthier relationship with social media.

 

1. Delete your social media apps

Be rest assured that this is a temporary measure. For just 12 hours, take social media off of your phone. See what effects not being on social media has and what thoughts it provokes. Once the experiment is over, the idea of limiting yourself will feel much more doable.

 

2. Detox with a buddy

Whether your objective is to lose weight, get fit or spend less time on social media, doing it with somebody can make it much easier. Find a loved one who is interested in “detoxing” with you and decide on a way of following through. Check in with each other to see how you’re getting on. Having a friend take part with you will make you more likely to stick to your goals.

 

3. Identify what apps you’re using the most

If you’re an iPhone user, you have a built-in feature called Screen Time under Settings, which shows which apps you’re spending the most time on. Otherwise, you can download an app like Moment. It might interest you to see how much time you’re devoting to specific social media apps.

 

4. Put a rubber band around your phone

This simple trick can stop you mindlessly picking up your phone. When reaching for your phone, there’s now a physical obstacle that snaps you out of autopilot for a second. It encourages you to reflect on what you’re doing.

 

5. Give your phone a bed time

Tell yourself that after a certain hour, your phone goes out of the way until the next day. Move your charger away from your bedside to an area out of arm’s reach. By having less access to your phone, you’re less likely to scroll through social media until the early hours.

 

6. Get a real alarm clock

The start of the day should focus on intention (e.g. What do I want to accomplish today?) while the end of the day should be about reflection. When your phone is in your hands the second you wake up, you’re likely to skip that moment of zen and head straight to scrolling.

 

7. Set time limits on your apps

If social media is hindering your productivity but you can’t resist it, consider an app such as Freedom. You can set up times that you want Freedom to block social media apps, and even enable a “Locked Mode” which won’t allow you to cancel those time limits.

 

8. Practice meditation

In addition to helping you manage stress and sleep better, meditation can help you be more mindful when it comes to what you’re doing, including how you’re using social media. If you need some guidance, watch a few relaxing meditation videos or download Headspace.


Morning anxiety

7 ways to manage your morning anxiety for a happier start to the day

Morning anxiety

Morning anxiety is very real. We generally feel anxious about things we fear, which his why many of us become anxious first thing in the morning. But very often, these are what-if scenarios that haven’t even happened yet.

Acting out a particular scenario then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But how to we stop the cycle and feel calmer instead? Here’s some advice.

 

1. Assess your anxiety

Begin by working out whether you’re experiencing genuine anxiety, or whether other social factors might be to blame. ‘Sunday night dread’ is a real thing in our culture. It’s natural to feel sad the weekend is over, but that’s very different to feeling never-ending knots in your stomach and constantly dreading the week ahead.

 

2. Identify the cause of your anxiety

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, it’s useful to try and identify any potential triggers. While anxiety disorders aren’t usually caused by one single factor, they can often be brought on by certain things. Sit and think about what you’re feeling especially anxious about. It’s a good place to start.

 

3. Be honest

However you’re feeling, being upfront and honest with close friends is likely to improve it. Acting like you’re not anxious, sad or depressed requires a huge amount of energy, and you’re denying yourself with some potentially invaluable support from people who care about you.

If the morning journey into work is causing anxiety before you’ve even left the house, speak about it with a colleague you trust at work how difficult you’re finding things. A bit of support can go a great way.

 

4. Start small

If you’ve identified the triggers to your anxiety, the next step is implementing the change. Make active choices such as unfollowing people on Instagram who make you unhappy, or preparing your lunch/dinner for the day the night before. These are only little changes, but they add up and collectively go a long way to helping you feel calm and in control.

 

5. Try meditation and mindfulness

Anxiety is often triggered by our thoughts rushing ahead, so having a mindful practise each morning can slow down those thoughts before they spiral. If neither is for you (although don’t knock it until you try it!), try to declutter your mind – whether it’s going for a walk or doing some drawing. Try it for a week and you might be surprised.

 

6. Switch up your schedule

The worst thing about morning anxiety is those few hours being wasted by dreading what’s to come. You should spend those hours enjoying not being at work. So instead of dreading it, do something fun! Begin your day with something relaxing. Whether it’s a lovely breakfast or a dreamy bath, try making positive associations during those few hours you’d normally spend feeling anxious. Even just flicking through a magazine or calling a loved-one can serve as a great distraction technique.

 

7. Get sweating

If there’s one thing experts unanimously agree on, it’s that exercise is a real winner when it comes to our mental health. Establishing health habits through diet, exercise and self-care is very important.

But when we’re anxious we’re less likely to give much thought or attention to those good habits, just when we need it most. Focus on establishing a regular exercise routine to set yourself up for the day – there’s a good chance you’ll notice your mood improving too.


Netflix

11 shows and movies on Netflix & Amazon Prime that can boost your mood

Netflix

There’s something incredibly relaxing about settling down to watch a great show or movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Therapists have in fact discovered that certain shows can actually boost your mood, and in some cases, lessen the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is a winter-related malady that is triggered by the lack of sunlight in winter, which affects levels of melatonin and serotonin in the part of the brain that controls mood, sleep and appetite.

Taking in natural sunlight, eating a nutrient-dense diet and getting plenty of exercise can help alleviate symptoms. But so can watching the right shows. Shows that inspire hope, follow a character overcome challenges and those with messages about belonging and community are all best for SAD.

By following along as characters display these traits, you can feel inspired, uplifted and connected. But even the simple act of having a fun show or movie to look forward to at the end of a wintery day can be a big help too, which is why some that are simply fun to watch are included in this list. So here are the shows and movies that were found to boost people’s moods.

 

1. Grace and Frankie (Netflix)

Grace and Frankie show characters being their authentic selves while also overcoming challenges. This is a story of opposites attracting and discovering a deep friendship. It inspires hope and possibility, even in our darkest moments.

 

2. The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (Amazon Prime)

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel also inspires hope. And of course, it’s super funny. As the main character’s perfect life dismantles, she is challenged to reveal her true self. An inspiring message which shows you’re enough just as you are.

 

3. About A Boy (Netflix)

Another one that ticks all boxes is the film About A Boy. It’s the story of a person who transforms his own life through acts of kindness for a boy struggling to cope and searching for a safe-haven. Our relationships with others affect our relationship with ourselves – this movie serves as a great reminder of that.

 

4. Friends (Netflix)

Friends is a brilliant show to watch if you’re struggling with SAD symptoms, for a variety of reasons. This diverse group of people demonstrate the value of relationships. They support and comfort one another through life’s challenges. Plus, it’s hilarious.

 

5. Legally Blonde (Amazon Prime)

Legally Blonde is not only a fun and light-hearted movie to watch when you’re down, but it’s also surprisingly inspiring. Despite a life of privilege, Elle Woods experiences and overcomes a lack of meaning, because she isn’t seen for who she truly is. Never judge a book by it’s cover.

 

6. Sex Education (Netflix)

Funny, uplifting and inspiring, Sex Education is a depiction of the messiness that is life, in the form of a great series. It demonstrates our capacity for heartfelt empathy in moments of vulnerability.

 

7. Love and Other Drugs (Amazon Prime)

This movie shows the importance of being authentic and vulnerable. And who couldn’t use a little reminder like that?

 

8. The Good Place (Netflix)

This show is funny, and is an entertaining example of reflecting on our relationship with ourselves. A group of different characters who are considered outsiders and misfits, join together to make themselves better people.

 

9. Pitch Perfect (Amazon Prime)

As if a snazzy acapella group wouldn’t lift your mood all on its own, Pitch Perfect also checks other boxes, as it shows people conquering challenges, sticking together, being true to themselves, and ultimately belonging.

 

10. Queer Eye (Netflix)

Queer Eye is a lot of fun. But is also a big-hearted approach towards those who feel low in confidence and lost. It demonstrates that we all live more productively when we feel valued and seen, and deserving of spending time on ourselves. If you need a reminder or that, give this a watch.

 

11. The Big Bang Theory (Netflix)

If you’re looking for a light-hearted show to boost your mood, The Big Bang Theory is a good choice. Being about a group of talented outsiders struggling to fit in, it can be relatable and even inspiring if you’re feeling isolated.

 

Because the shows and movies are funny, inspiring and show characters overcoming obstacles, watching them can be quite uplifting if you’re feeling down. While they won’t cure SAD alone, include them as part of your daily or weekly routine as a comforting and fun way to get through the winter.

 


Anxious coronavirus

What to do if you’re anxious about coronavirus

Feeling overwhelmed or concerned this year is understandable, especially if you struggle with your own mental health. You might be anxious about your health or a loved one’s health, or what impact the pandemic has had on your life. So here are some steps you can take if you’re feeling anxious about it all.

 

Talk to someone

It’s normal to feel worried. But if you’re feeling completely overwhelmed, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings and speak to someone you trust. It could be a friend, a family member or a teacher. If you’d like to speak to somebody outside the people you know, there are helplines available, or I am also here to reach out to.

 

Know the facts

There is so much information out there regarding the virus, and false reports can fuel anxiety. Stay on top of what’s happening by using the government website – it’s the most up-to-date and reliable source of information. The NHS coronavirus page is also useful if you’re worried about symptoms or family members.

 

Don’t overexpose yourself to the news

Staying informed can make you feel in control, but the constant news reports can be overwhelming. Limit the time you spend reading or watching the news, by planning other activities that you enjoy and will take your mind off things. This might be FaceTiming a friend, watching a TV series, reading a book or going for a walk.

Take a break from social media if it’s getting too intense for you. Remember you are in control of what you see on your feed. Take breaks if things get too much, or unfollow or mute accounts that make you feel more worried.

 

Plan your time

With so much uncertainty in the news, creating a routine you stick to can really help to maintain a sense of structure and normality. Try to find time in your routine for activities that make you feel good and calm. Think about what you might want to do during this time and how you will prioritise your wellbeing.

 

Dealing with self-isolation

Wherever you are when self-isolating, think about who you can keep in contact with and how you can use apps such as Zoom and WhatsApp to see and talk to people. Talk to people you love and trust during this time and continue to stay connected. They might be in a similar situation to you, and can help you navigate what you’re going through.

Maintain your routine as much as possible by getting up in the morning and going to bed at a regular time. Staying hydrated and eating regular meals will also help, as well as doing things you enjoy. Try activities in your home that get you moving, like dancing and yoga.

You may find that you need extra support, so think about who you can turn to. It could be someone you know, a helpline that you can talk to, or myself.


Self care things to do during lockdown

8 ways to practise self-care during lockdown

Let’s face it – lockdown hasn’t been the kindest to most people. For many of us, anxiety is high, therefore you might have slipped out of your old healthy routines and self-care habits. Being truly healthy isn’t just about eating the right things and working out every day. Mental, emotional and social health are all vital parts of true holistic wellness too.

Here are 8 things to do to practise self-care during lockdown.

 

1. Connect with a friend or family member

Connecting with other people (even virtually) not only helps you to feel more valued, it can also help to give you a different perspective on things. If you’re having a bad day, talking things through with someone can help to lighten the load. Check in on people that you know are living alone and don’t have any face-to-face contact.

If you don’t fancy talking to someone you know, online support groups can be a great place to start and connect with other people.

 

2. Get outside

If possible, try to immerse yourself in nature every day. Appreciate the fresh air. If you don’t have access to a local green space, instead admire the architecture and the quiet spaces around you. Having limited time outdoors should make this outdoor tranquillity even more precious.

 

3. Declutter

Facing this time at home, it’s important to create an environment that feels good to you. Organise and simplify your home space by decluttering physical items that don’t bring joy into your life. Start in the kitchen and take it one drawer at a time.

 

4. Get crafty

Getting creative is a great way to take your mind off of things for a while. There’s something very therapeutic and calming about sitting down and creating something, whether that’s a watercolour painting or a line drawing. Just try to give your brain a chance to switch off and experiment with colours and shapes.

 

5. Keep yourself physically active

Now that our gyms are no longer accessible, you need a bit more creativity to practise self-care during lockdown. Use the internet to its full advantage with its yoga classes on YouTube, fitness apps and more. You’ve got the choice of keeping active alone or enjoying live classes with a community.

 

6. Make yourself a fancy lunch

If you’re working from home for the time being, why not make the most of your kitchen during your lunch break? Treat yourself to a tasty meal to give yourself a boost at lunchtime, not to mention that cooking in itself can be incredibly relaxing.

 

7. Digital downtime

Make sure you take a break from the constant screen-time and news overload. This is particularly important in the evenings, as relaxation and good sleep is fundamental to our health.

 

8. Have fun!

Fun is the best way to practise self-care during lockdown. Learn a new language, cook a new recipe, take up a hobby. Just make sure you have some fun, even if it’s putting on your favourite music and having a dance around the house. There is so much joy to be found in the simplest of pleasures, and now is a great time to reconnect to them.