NURTURING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH DURING LOCKDOWN Part 2
Provided by Mindfulness and Resilience Expert –
Cheryl is working with memcom and Associations Week to provide seminars and downloads on practical help for nurturing your mental health.
In the current challenging times we are all living in at the moment, we at Giraffe Resilience would like to offer you some suggestions to boost your resilience.
This new way of living presents its challenges to all and it is important to have routine in your life to help you cope with the situation we all find ourselves in.
Here are a few more techniques that you may like to focus on to help build your resilience.
Expressive Writing – The Brain Tap
Writing about stressful life experiences has been shown to be highly effective. Transferring those whirring thoughts out of you head on to a piece of paper can be really cathartic.
Find a quiet space and for 10 minutes write down every thought that comes into your head. It might be challenging to begin with, but give yourself the time and space and the thoughts will start to flow.
Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or what it sounds like, just write freely. Don’t be tempted to do this on your phone or lap top, it is important to have that connection of pen to paper and to the brain. You can either just use a piece of paper or you may want to have a journal that you can keep and then reflect back on.
If you are using a piece of paper you may like to burn, scrunch up or rip up that paper at the end if that feels right for you. It’s up to you, if you burn it make sure you do it somewhere safe!
By using this tool, we can use the pain and difficulty in our lives to build strength, character and resilience.
Exploring Difficulty Meditation
Exploring difficult or unsettling situations and observing how your body reacts when you bring these situations to mind can help you to see and sense the situation from a different perspective. By focusing on how your body is reacting you are letting the deepest, wisest part of the mind-body do its work.
Find yourself a comfortable position and gently bring your focus to your breathing. As you are sitting there bring to mind a difficult situation in your life - where you may have felt angry, upset, resentful or stressed. Allow this thought or feeling to remain in your mind. Then shift your attention to your body - where do you ‘feel’ this emotion? Deliberately focus on where these feelings are strongest. The breath can help you guide your focus. You are not trying to change the feelings, so remind yourself that it is OK to feel like this and be open to it.
See if it is possible to stay with this awareness of the sensations in the body, reminding yourself that it is OK, using each out breath to soften to these sensations.
When you notice that the sensations are no longer pulling for your attention, focus once again on the breath as it replenishes you.
You may like to use a guided meditation to do this exercise, Bangor University have many free audio downloads that may help.
Live Today As If New To The Planet
We have focused so far on the negative emotions that we may be experiencing at the moment, now might be the time to feed some positive emotions too.
How many times do we stop to smell the roses? To appreciate the beauty that is around us every day? We can all get so wrapped up in our busy lives that we literally screen these things out of our perception - we take them for granted.
Now is the perfect time to spend some time in nature if you can get outside, if not see if you can observe from an open window. This exercise encourages you to actively notice everyday things around you that would be things of awe and wonder to an alien who’d just landed on Earth.
Take yourself outside for a walk, with no specific agenda other than to slow down – to experience and appreciate the richness of our world. Don’t go anywhere special. Take your time. Have an open frame of mind. Use your senses to feel the calm of the village or buzz of the city, to smell freshly cut grass, exhaust fumes or the flowers in a neighbour’s garden, to feel the rain on your head, to see all the different shades of green in the trees, plants, grass, to hear your footsteps on the ground, aeroplanes in the distance. To enhance this experience, you may like to take your shoes off and feel the grass between your toes.
Try stopping and looking upwards. Intentionally notice objects, buildings that you normally wouldn’t give a second glance. Look at everything with fresh curiosity.
Three Good Things
We can overcome our brain’s natural negativity bias and train it instead to notice more of the positives around us. It takes approximately 3 positive things to offset the emotion you feel from 1 negative thought or event.
Think back to the last 24 hours, identify & make a list of 3 things that were positive, made you smile or laugh, including how and why each thing was positive .
Repeat this exercise every day for at least a week – ideally 21 days. Try to do it at the same time every day e.g. at dinner time or before bed.
Aim for 3, but if you find more, all the better!
The more the exercise is repeated, the more your brain will naturally start to carve a new thinking pathway, seeking out these positives. The more automatic this thinking becomes, the more you will catch yourself noticing things for your ‘list’ throughout the day with little effort. The power of this exercise can be amplified by doing it with a friend or family member, sharing lists and benefitting from each other’s celebration of the positives in their life. You might like to share these on a video call with family or friends that you can’t see at the moment.
This exercise will build the positive emotions of gratitude, amusement, hope & joy.
Please see my other blogs for further tips.
Cheryl Harrison, Mindfulness Teacher & a Counselling Psychotherapist