Mental Health Awareness Week: Kindness & Self-Compassion.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and the theme is kindness.  While a lot of the focus will probably be aimed at being kind to other people, I would like to focus on Self-kindness and the positive effects it can have on our physical and mental wellbeing.

In my last blog, Why Now May be a Good Time to Start Meditating, I highlighted how dangerous negative thoughts and emotions, such as anxiety, can be for our health. 

The further we traverse into the uncharted territories that this pandemic is presenting to the world then the more important actions such as kindness are.  As people become more afraid and stress increases, words such as kindness, love and care seem to get forgotten, replaced by anger, frustration and an urge to find someone to blame.

Numerous studies have shown that emotions such as anger and hatred can be a significant cause of premature death.  Dr Redford Williams at Duke University, and Dr Robert Sapolsky at Stanford University have conducted studies that showed how anger, rage and hostility are particularly damaging to the cardiovascular system.  Read more

Why Now May be a Good Time to Start Meditating.

Being in a prolonged period of stress and fear is exhausting, and it will be having a massive impact on your mental and physical well-being.

An 8 year study of 68,222 adults (published in the British Medical Journal) found that even mild anxiety produces a 20% greater risk of death.

Research also shows that negative emotions such as fear, pessimism and resentment depress our immune system.

That’s the bad news; the good news is that there is something we can do to help ourselves; to aid in boosting our immune system and our general well-being, and that is ‘meditation’. Read more

Time to Get Outdoors, Whatever the Weather….

I guess it is stating the obvious to say that the weather has a massive impact on our mood.  When the sun shines we generally feel better than when it is wet windy and grey.

Normally I don’t mind a bit of rain and wind; after all, us Brits are used to it (sniggers from my friends and relatives in South Africa) but the last couple of months have been a real struggle for me.  It seems as though every day I have had to battle through high winds, and wade through sticky, gooey mud.  I battle depression anyway, but I find that the worse the weather, the lower my mood.

One of my neighbours recently saw me walking down the road with Leo in the rain; he smiled and said “that’s why I have a cat….” can’t really argue with that.

This year the storms seem relentless, and the normal, cold crisp, frosty days of winter that I really love, have been very scarce. Read more

Alastair Campbell: Depression & Me. Another Great Mental Health Documentary.

This was another great documentary by the BBC for Mental Health Awareness Week; and again, it was great to see a public figure being so open in sharing their struggle with a mental health issue.

Like most words related to mental health issues, depression is wildly misused.  As we saw with Alastair Campbell, depression is not just feeling sad or unhappy for a short while; it is a long term, daily struggle and it can make your mood change in split seconds.

The main question raised by the documentary was the use of medication as a treatment.  It was plain to see that the medication Alastair was taking only helped to reduce the feelings of depression; his family were shocked that he could switch from feeling fine to being in a depressed state in just a matter of seconds whilst being on medication. Read more

Anxiety and the Brain, Part 9: Useful Examples of Amygdala-based Anxiety.

The book I have been referencing for the Anxiety and the Brain series (Rewire Your Anxious Brain) has some examples of how anxiety can affect someone, and why amygdala-based anxiety does not always make logical sense.

The Anxious Teddy Bear:

A lady was presenting a teddy bear to her grandson, who was running happily toward her.  Then he suddenly fell and split his lip open on the driveway.

Now he experiences amygdala-based anxiety whenever he sees a teddy bear.  Because the perfectly harmless teddy bear was associated with the pain of the injury, the teddy bear became a trigger, leading to a fear of teddy bears. Read more