Mental health problems affect one in four of us according to Time to Change. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness about this issue with high profile individuals, such as Prince Harry, talking about it openly and various Mental Health Awareness days, weeks and months encouraging public discussions, such as the Time to Talk day earlier this month.
Last year, after the World Mental Health Awareness day in October, Caroline Flack posted on her twitter page “Be nice to each other. You never know what is going on with people. Ever.” I find this quote echoing around my head recently in the light of what we now know about the extent of her own struggles. And I know I’m just one of the many who have been affected by her tragic death.
Despite all the growing public awareness, there is still a great deal of stigma and misunderstanding around mental health disorders, leaving many people feeling isolated and ashamed. Depression is the most common psychological disorder affecting people in the Western World1, is rising in people of every age2 and is estimated to be second only to heart disease as the leading cause of illness and death by 20203.
The changing nature of our lives and the way we live them now makes us more susceptible than ever to depression and anxiety. Many aspects of modern life prevent us from meeting the fundamental physical and emotional needs of our innate human nature.
I believe all of us need to pay attention to our mental wellbeing in order to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. The NHS’s 5 steps to mental wellbeing is a great starting point.
Here’s my suggestions based on their 5 steps with inspiration from the Newbury Wellbeing directory members and the wonderful opportunities they offer.
1. Connect with other people
A lack of connection to others (and ourselves) leaves us feeling empty at our core. In this modern world, there are so many gadgets and ways to help us to connect with other people and yet it seems that we feel increasingly isolated; disconnected from our souls and our tribes (those people who think and feel like us), our passion and compassion.
Connencting is our deepest DESIRE, and to lose it is our deepest FEAR.– Dr Harville Hendrix
Many of the wellbeing events featured in our What’s On section offer great opportunities to connect with other like-minded people. Whether you choose to join a Women’s Gathering, a Creative Writing session or the outdoors group coaching and mindfulness sessions of Fresh Air Fridays, you’re sure to meet and share experiences with some lovely people who are open to connecting, as well as being invited to explore a deeper connection with yourself.
If you’re pregnant, then Leah’s Pregnancy Yoga classes are a great way to meet other local mums-to-be.
2. Be physically active
The increase of sedentary lifestyles is leading not only to a growing problem with weight and physical aches and pains (see Bowen Technique and BACK PAIN), but also contributes to depression4.
Exercise lifts the mood. Blood flow to the brain is increased, as are the levels of brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine that help us feel good. When we’re able to exercise out doors then there are additional benefits from natural light and the chemicals emitted from trees that boost our immune system (you’ll learn all about this in Sonya’s Forest Therapy sessions).
Try exercise classes, walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. Find something that makes you feel good and prioritise the time to do it in.
3. Learn new skills
Join an evening class. Take up yoga, painting, drumming, singing, creative writing, cooking or learn a new language, anything useful that gets you meeting new people and doing things that are intrinsically satisfying.
Perhaps you’d enjoy learning a healing skill for yourself such as Bowen Therapy, Reiki or Abdominal Sacral Massage. Doing so will have many additional benefits including the ability to heal yourself and others which brings me nicely to..
4. Give to others
You may not have realised it, but it was the Random Acts of Kindness Week last week 17th – 22nd February. This week (and the focus day on 17th February) was organised by the Random Acts of Kindness organisation with the aim of making “kindness the norm”. There are lots of great suggestions and inspirational stories on their website.
You might also like to check out Action for Happiness’s Friendly February calendar suggestions. Their focus for February is on daily actions to bring happiness to others and improve relationships.
5. Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)
Every human being has the capacity to be mindful. Mindfulness can help settle a busy mind and bring about change from within. Learn to settle the chattering mind and connect more with how you are feeling, rather than thinking, in order to bring about change from the inside. I love the clicky pen analogy offered by Caroline Quinton Smith in her recent blog post, Mindfulness and the clicky pen analogy.
Caroline offers a variety of mindfulness classes and courses. She’s also our Guest Speaker at the next Newbury Wellbeing Network meeting (Wednesday 11th March 10:30am – 12pm at Chequers Hotel in Newbury) which is open to all independent therapists and Wellness Practitioners in the local area.
Tracy Hughes also offers mindfulness guidance in her Meditation Classes that run in 4-week blocks.
I hope you find something here to inspire you to set time and energy aside to nurture your mental wellbeing and that you enjoy yourself in the process!
Do share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below or if you have any specific questions about what has been discussed, you are welcome to email me directly and I’ll do my best to answer you and point you in the right direction for more information if necessary.
- Seligman, M E P (1991). Learned Optimism. Alfred Knopf, New York.
- Lane, R E (2000). The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies. Yale University Press.
- The Global Burden of Disease (2004). World Health Organixation, Geneva.
- Zhai L, Zhang Y, Zhang D (2015). Sedentary behaviour and the risk of depression: a meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine 49:705-709.