Today, the 18th of May, marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. This is event is run annually to drive awareness of mental health issues – and with good reason. 1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year; for those affected, mental health problems can have a real, seemingly inescapable, and often invisible impact on daily life.
Although Mental Health Awareness Week runs, this year, from the 18th to 24th of May, good mental health habits are very important, for everyone, at any time of year. It’s important to remember that even those without present difficulties do have mental health (just like any other kind of health), and it’s as important to look after your head-space as it is to exercise and eat your ‘five a day’.
Awareness is really important here because with so many people experiencing similar issues, everyone knows someone with really valuable advice. The knowledge is there, and we can learn to be happier by sharing and supporting each other.
Here are some of the strategies the people of Majenta Solutions use to look after their own head-spaces day to day. We hope some of them work for you.
A breathing exercise for coping with anxiety symptoms
Measuring your day in terms of what you do achieve
“Measure your day in small wins, they don’t have to be impressive to anyone but yourself even if it’s the most mundane of tasks like making your bed, or washing your hair, or walking an extra kilometre. It’s important to acknowledge what you have achieved – even if it’s the smallest of tasks. All the small wins will help make a happier you.”
Tend to a garden to ground yourself in nature
“There is nothing like a spot of gardening to clear the mind, it doesn’t matter what space you have to work with, whether it’s a large vegetable patch, a few pot plants, a patch of strawberries or a window box of herbs. Gardening heals, there is no greater joy than seeing what comes from what you plant. In the words of good old gardening legend, Monty Don “ Gardens heal. When you are sad, a garden comforts. When you are humiliated or defeated, a garden consoles. When you are lonely it offers companionship that is true and lasting.” My vegetable patch has been a true healer throughout this current torrent of a pandemic, if there has been anything constant throughout it, it has been the excitement of seedlings turning to crops and the sense of feeling humble and grounded – feelings that sweep those of anxiety and fear.”
Remember that your thoughts, feelings and behaviours are connected in a cycle
“If you look at the CBT (or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Model), it shows thoughts influencing feelings, which change behaviour, which changes your thoughts and the whole thing goes round and round. This all happens almost instantly so you can’t always notice it, but if you start trying to change your thoughts and talk more kindly to yourself you will notice a difference. So, if instead of saying ‘I can’t do this’, you say ‘I’ll find this difficult’, you might find yourself in a better frame of mind to tackle the problem. Also, don’t say ‘I should do this’, say ‘I would like to do this’.”
Treat your brain like part of the body
“I sometimes want to jump in a time machine and give that ‘I think therefore I am’ bloke a piece of my mind, because mind over matter can be a really unhelpful way of looking at things. You’re made of matter, your brain is part of your body and treating it like an all-powerful computer won’t help. Exercise does wonders for me, it gets your body to make its own anti-depressants. They talk about that on this podcast https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07zn4wt.”
Write in a journal
“I write in a gratitude journal, 3-4 things most evenings that I’m grateful for that day. A lot of the time they’re small things. It can be anything from finishing a big project to little stuff like the sun shining on the way home.”
Have a break from your gadgets
“Put the smartphone away in the evening. Plug into the wall in another room, walk away, and you can only use it keeping it plugged into the charger. It becomes more like landline and it doesn’t constantly want your attention.”