My top 5 actions!
Depression is something I know all too well for my liking, and it wasn't until I started researching things you can do to help and then, implementing these things, through trial and error I have learned what works for me for a mindful life, and to quote Russel Brand 'enables me to carry out a task as normal as making toast without wanting to get into the bath with the toaster'.
The Morning Pages
You may know what these are but if you do not 'The morning pages' are an incredibly useful tool I learned from Julia Cameron, one of my favourite bad ass female heroes and author of forty books (I know right! ... she MUST know what she is talking about) This is a daily practice of three pages of longhand writing done first thing in the morning, I set a timer for 30 minutes and write until the timer goes off. Basically it is your consciousness no matter how jumbled, irrational or abstract, pouring out of your monkey mind onto the page, so YOU can go about your day without carrying all that chaos around in your head.
Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and
synchronize the day at hand - Julia Cameron
Look if you really want some calm and to be present, meditation really is the best action to take, If you are reading this and thinking, no way hosay, sitting down alone in silence for longer than 11 seconds without unbearable boredom or discomfort, I hear you mate! but honestly it isn't limited to sitting still cross legged focusing on the breath, I have an ADHD mind so that doesn't work for me at all, I have to opt for practices like alternate nostril breathing, Om chanting and kundalini, this keeps my mind engaged and present. So if your interested in mediating, please, go find one that works for you!
Here are some of my favourite Mediations and how to do them.
I also use the Calm and Sam Harris meditation apps.
The Wim Hof Method
Wim Hof, you might know him as the 'Ice Man', was thought of as a crazy Dutch dude who did extreme things, such as running a marathon in the desert with no water, climbing Everest in shorts, and being injected with a virus in order to demonstrate how, with his mind, he can control it's effect on his body. He did not become sick. Science is now catching up with Wim Hof, rather than the other way around, and he is changing, and saving peoples lives with his techniques. The techniques I practice are: cold therapy, I take a daily cold shower for 1 minute 30 seconds before switching the dial back to the normal hot water setting, or you can take an ice bath.
The breathing: I just load up this guided video every time, as it's easy to follow and you don't even have to think about the timings.
Here are the instructions if you would like to read through.
Step one, get comfortable sitting or lying down. Step two, close your eyes and fully inhale through the belly, then chest and then let go unforced. Repeat this 30 to 40 times in short, powerful bursts. You may experience light-headedness, and tingling sensations in your fingers and feet. These side effects are completely harmless. Step three, After the last exhalation, inhale one final time, as deeply as you can. Then let the air out and stop breathing. Hold until you feel the urge to breathe again, the more you practice the longer you can hold your breathe, which makes you feel super human and awesome! Step four, When you feel the urge to breathe again, draw one big breath to fill your lungs. Feel your belly and chest expanding. When you are at full capacity, hold the breath for around 15 seconds, then let go. That completes round number one. This cycle can be repeated 3-4 times without interval. After having completed the breathing exercise, take your time to bask in the bliss.
Seriously, any kind of movement is good. It can be an hour long sweaty gym session or a 20 minute walk. About three years ago I tried out resistance training and surprisingly, it felt like the thing for me, so that's my jam. I also do a daily walk of 20 minutes, which just helps me to process things in my life, ideas, and breaks the day up nicely. I used to have a mostly sedentary life, I was full of anxiety, my sleep was terrible and so was my immune system. I decided to try and find some kind of exercise I could incorporate in to my life. I tried running, high intensity interval training, spin class, cardio, pilates, aerobic exercise, I couldn't stick to or endure any of those but eventually, I found what felt good and I could keep showing up to. If I don't have some kind of movement in my life I feel stress and tension building up, I feel panicky, my mood is mostly low, I get irritable and I can't sleep well. So I cannot recommend enough getting your body moving in any way that is right for you.
Time in nature
A couple of years ago I did a shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) weekend, it was awesome! You do not need to be this much of a tree hugging hippie though to get the health benefits from spending some time outside in nature. Here are some of the long-term health benefits: reduced stress, improved immunity, lower blood pressure and accelerated recovery from illness or trauma. So next time you need to nip to the local shop for your milk, have a walk down instead and listen out for the rustle of the trees, the smell of the grass, and if you ARE brave enough, hug a freaking tree mate.
So there you have it, my top 5 actions for good mental health, and I wish it on all of you!
I hope this was helpful, sending you all the love.
The Green Fox x