In the best of times, and in the worst of times, there are things that make a difference to how I feel about my life – regardless of how my mental health is tracking. Here are three top tips for moving forward.
It has been proven that exercise supports health and well-being. I’m not talking about hard-out cross-fit training sessions. Rather I prefer light exercise. I find that even a 20 minute walk can change my state and being near water or in nature usually produces the best results.
Apart from long walks in the outdoors, my other favourite activity is Pilates. I have done a gentle version for ten years now and while it is quite low impact I have developed very good strength and flexibility.
Any exercise that requires the brain to tune into the body is great therapy, for the both the mind and the body. The awareness developed has helped me understand and avoid stress responses as they arise. Knowing how to read the signals of distress and having the physical awareness to deal with them, provides reassurance when things are falling apart.
Mindfulness is a great way to keep learning about ourselves and the world. It expands knowledge and creates new ways of thinking. Often we get stuck in recycled thought patterns – without even knowing that is what we’re doing. Any old habit is hard to break and if we are not aware of thought patterns, they are impossible to change.
The practice of mindfulness meditation allows me to pause and observe what is actually going on inside my mind. I am surprised at the huge amount thoughts bouncing around – but not taking me anywhere. Such a waste of energy!
Just the simple act of being able to see my thoughts has changed the way I respond to stress and make decisions. It has also brought insights that would not have arisen without my daily meditation practice.
Also my view the world has changed in recent years. I can accredit this to meditation along with the lessons learned from my experiences with depression and anxiety. I find it exciting to be evolving like this.
If you haven’t tried meditating then guided meditations are a good place to start. 12 minutes listening to a pleasant voice helping me relax both physically and mentally is very therapeutic, while not taking a big chunk out of my day. If you are like me, being alone with nothing to occupy your mind is not always comfortable. That’s why guided meditation is great. It gives you sometime to do – while you’re not doing anything.
My favourite guided meditation pod casts are found at Meditation Oasis available on most pod cast apps and here. They offer a guided meditation for every occasion, varying in length and intensity, so you can pick one to suit your needs.
Here in New Zealand, Mindfulness Works run courses in many centres around the country. I can highly recommend these programmes.
When dealing with mental health issues the thought of trying something new might be impossible and if it is possible, it still takes an enormous effort. Some days I have had to force myself to do the more routine tasks, never mind attempting something I haven’t done before.
Fortunately, due to technology, we no longer have to leave the house to have new experiences. Connecting on-line enables us to; learn from others, share experiences or simply watch the world through whatever lens we choose to apply.
Alternatively there’s the option to take up a new hobby. YouTube is the biggest classroom ever! You can learn anything including; cooking, knitting, decluttering your home (some people call that a hobby), applying make up and rewiring a lamp (which I did recently).
Then there are the specialist websites offering information in a whole range of areas. One of my favourites is Life Edited (www.lifeedited.com) which sends me a regular newsletter on “Designing your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy”. (Oh, I wish!) To be serious, what appeals to me is the focus on simple living in low impact, efficient dwellings. Check it out.
These are three things that I have found help move me forward each day – despite the ups, downs and restrictions created by the state of my mental health. Above all, they all support my desire for life-long learning.