This week is Mental Health Awareness week and so I thought I would write a blog about mental health. We often focus on keeping ourselves physically fit however what about looking after ourselves spiritually and emotionally? I follow the work of Rangan Chatterjee a UK based general practitioner because he has a very simple message. We can feel better in five minutes. He purports that three short health snacks a day will quickly improve your health and make you feel happier calmer and more energetic. This is a 360-degree approach that ensures your mind, body and heart are being nourished each day. One five minute health snack per day helps your mind by reducing levels of stress and anxiety. Another health snack helps you strengthen your body by getting you moving more and lastly a health snack that will help your heart by strengthening your essential connections. This is an extremely simple model and one that I am sure that you all will be able to implement.
So today I want to focus on the Mind health snacks. Our minds are not designed for the modern world we live in. The pace of change in our world has outrun our brain’s ability to cope with it. Our minds are overloaded so in order to be healthier we must honour the most fragile organ in our body - our brain. In just five minutes a day we can make significant changes to our minds and to improve our moods. My recommendation is to put aside some time in the morning to do the following exercise to set yourselves up for the day. Often, we might wake feeling a little anxious from thoughts that have been churning around in our brains overnight. By using just five minutes in your morning you can set yourselves up to have a fantastic day.
The one tool that I recommend you begin with is a thought download. You might like to think of this as a brain dump – it is simply getting all the thoughts that you have swirling around inside your brain out of here and onto a piece of paper. Once you start doing this on a regular basis you will find that you will start the day with a clearer and less anxious mind. This allows you to absorb the ordinary stresses of your lives much more easily. To begin with you can use whatever paper you can find or perhaps you would like to use a journal to write in. Sometimes I suggest if people are using paper that they can screw the paper up and throw it in the bin at the end. This can be quite cathartic.
Rangan suggests a five step release. This includes the following five steps:
One thing I am anxious about today – chose the issue that’s most dominant in your thoughts or perhaps something that is worrying you in the near future.
One practical thing I can do to prevent of prepare for it – it’s a good idea to be proactive in dealing with our day-to-day anxieties. Preparation is often the key to help with these.
One reason its probably not going to be as bad as I fear – our minds like to catastrophize and take us to the worst case scenario. Try to foster a more realistic view of your problem by not accepting the worst case scenario is going to happen.
One reason I know I can handle it – chances are that you’ve probably been through worse before and survived.
One upside of the situation – things are rarely as bad as we think. What’s one upside of the problem that’s worrying you.
Now to make it stick is the next step. I’d recommend doing this first thing in the morning and attach it to something else you already do. If you do it upon awakening then have the pen and paper beside your bed. If you prefer to do it as I do while having your morning coffee then place your journal next to the coffee machine or electric jug the night before. As an incentive its important to celebrate your health snacks. Using a success chart is something visual which your brain loves to see. I have some examples of these to share with you. If you would like one please send me an email and I can forward you one. These are pretty charts for you to place stickers on or even use a jar to put coffee beans in each time you complete a thought download. Celebrate your successes.