East London therapist and mindset coach, Mariko Bangerter practices transformational EFT Tapping (Emotional Freedom Techniques). Whether you are dealing with anxiety, writer’s block or trying to keep yourself on track, Mindsetting, will help you live a fuller life.
1 Accept your feelings
A key first step to immediately improving your mental health is to accept whatever it is you’re feeling. Your emotions are a direct communication line from your unconscious mind acting like a barometer for the deepest parts of yourself. We live in a society that is still uncomfortable seeing people express their emotions. Know that all your emotions are completely valid. Suppressing them or denying them will only cause resistance and stress for you. You can even make it a practice to embrace your feelings. As tempting as it is to numb your feelings with alcohol or escape them with TV, with emotions the only way out is through. If you’re having an off day and want to stay in bed crying, do it! If you’re feeling angry, go for a run or punch a pillow. Emotions are just energy in motion, they will pass in time if allowed to come up to the surface and move. Invite yourself to feel what you are feeling to the max, knowing it won’t last forever.
Tip: Ask yourself at random times during your day, how do I feel right now and why?
2 Limit your exposure to stressful content
How do you feel after reading or watching the news? What about after using social media? Are there any apps you use that make you feel anxious? The phrase ‘we are what we eat’ applies not only to food but anything we consume with our senses. Choose to watch and read things that make you feel hopeful, empowered and positive especially first thing in the morning and last thing at night when our minds are most receptive to conditioning.
Tip: Sleep with your phone in a different room and have some uplifting images near your bed.
3 Set clear boundaries
Boundaries are simply your personal limits and they need to be defined by you, nobody else. Have a think about what you want and don’t want to accept in your relationships. A good starting point for this is to say no when you mean no and yes when you mean yes. To help you do this, tune into your body and see what feels good and what doesn’t. The truth will always feel calming and light whereas when something doesn’t feel right you will experience tension and contraction. Define a boundary by seeing what point feels light and calm. Conversely when your boundaries are crossed you will feel resistance, tension and stress. Understand that “no” is a complete sentence and you don’t need to feel guilty for using it. If you do feel guilt, ask yourself why. What are your fears around this?
Tip: Practice saying no without feeling guilty.
4 Get into your body
Your mind and body are intricately connected. When you’re stressed you will usually feel tension in your body and conversely when you relax your body, your mind will usually ease. Do something every day that gets you deeply feeling into your body such as exercise, massage, cold showers or a relaxing bath. If you’re feeling really stressed, a mind-body practice such as yoga, tai-chi or qi gong are great options. Now with the array of online classes we have available it’s easier than ever to join in from our own living room.
Tip: Check out the array of online classes on offer from local gym, Blok.
5 Spend time in nature
A 2015 study by Stanford University researchers compared the effects of participants who took a 90 minute walk in nature vs. those who took a 90 minute walk in an urban setting. The nature walkers had decreased levels of both self-reported rumination and neural activity in the the part of the brain, the subgenual prefrontal cortex, whose activity correlates with a self-focused behavioural withdrawal linked to rumination. Even if you’re in an urban setting away from the wilderness, coming into contact with some nature such as a small park will still calm stress levels and give our eyes a much needed rest from screens. Victoria park or Hackney marshes are great local options while further out east there’s the expansive Epping forest for greater wilderness. We often forget we are natural creatures lost in an increasingly technological world. Let’s not forget to take things back to basics and back to nature, from where we evolved.
Tip: Take yourself on a walk in nature with a curious mindset, observing the trees and insects.
6 Have more fun
Whatever feels fun for you, do it more often. Sing, dance, be silly. Have friends you can be silly with or be silly alone. We spend so much time on left-brain activities being logical or critical, we need to relearn how to take things lighter. When was the last time you created something for the sake of exploration without judgement or criticism? Make a drawing, cook something new, learn a skill for no other reason than to explore and have fun without necessarily focusing on the end goal. We used to do this as children but then lost the habit and became result-oriented instead.
Tip: Check out obby.co.uk for all sorts of local classes and you may just find your next hobby.
7 Talk about your feelings
As a culture with a stiff upper lip we aren’t great at talking about mental or emotional issues and needing help with these is still very much stigmatised. It’s no wonder that we don’t feel comfortable talking about our feelings or asking for help. Practice talking about your feelings to people you trust. You may feel like you’re being a burden but know that most people love to be able to help someone in need. You may also feel uncomfortable appearing vulnerable but know that sharing your feelings is actually a courageous act. We are naturally tribal creatures and mental health spirals drastically when we feel isolated and lonely. Now more than ever we live individualised lives relying on technology to substitute close relationships. Make an effort to reach out and talk to friends or family whom you can trust and you may be surprised at how much this will deepen and solidify your relationships.
Tip: Check in with friends and family in the way you’d want them to do for you.
8 Invest in your mental health
We’re better at looking after our physical bodies partly because it’s easier to notice when there’s an issue. When we put on weight we may watch what we eat and sign up to a gym. We aren’t as good at taking care of our mental-emotional health. Be proactive about the issues you have. You don’t need to be anxious or depressed to work on yourself. You could just be aware of a negative repeating pattern in your life that you want to break free of. Start therapy, sign up to a course, get coaching, invest in yourself as an act of self-care, growth and an investment for the future you.
Tip: If you’re curious about working with someone, phone them up, ask them how they work, see if they resonate with you.
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