Welcome to mental health awareness week. I wanted to give you some options for you to help yourself. This will be very useful for those of you who have seen the Last Resort Tehcnique – Relationship saving advice on my Blog. Here is the link just in case you missed it.Last Resort Technique.
If you find this helpful please pass on to friends and family who may benefit.
Depression, anxiety and many mental health conditions become isolating and hard to deal with alone. So I want you to know there is help for you, you are not alone. Here are the five tips you can start today to get yourself back to you.
1) Find your tribe
It is well known social connections are crucial for a person who is experiencing depression. Social isolation is one of the hallmarks of a depressed person as they withdraw from social connections. An Australian study’s (Cruwy’s et al., 2014) findings demonstrate that those who not only joined a local group (some did yoga, art, Professor Alexander Haslam (Cruwy’s et al., 2014), a co-author, said:
“We were able to find clear evidence that joining groups, and coming to identify with them, can alleviate depression. “Our work shows that the ‘group’ aspect of social interaction is critical.” “…a group has to matter psychologically in order to be beneficial for depression – simply “showing up” without commitment or engagement is unlikely to be sufficient.”
The authors conclude that their study suggests…
“…that tackling the challenge of depression involves not just putting the person back into the group, but also putting the group back into the person.”
It seems finding your tribe, mob or community is important to healing depression. It’s vital this group is a place where you feel a connection. It could be taking up a hobby, acting classes, Yoga, community classes, Laughter Yoga, dancing, sports, it could even be online.
I was on a talkback radio show for ABC 702 with Radio host Philip Clarke and Professor Katina Michael from the University of Wollongong, where we were pondering is ‘Facebook making us sad.’ A lady called in and said Facebook had helped her recover from depression and it’s isolation. She told us that when a relative put up a profile for her, at first she was unnerved but as she found her friends and family coming out to support her she felt connected. How wonderful.
Look at the resources section at the end of this chapter, to find useful links.
So find your support network to gain connection and healing in the long term. We all need a cheer squad at times to send us love, validation and affirmation.
2) The Power of Pets
The other option is to start up your own tribe. I had a car accident where I was rear ended, leading to an injury and my beautiful car being written off. Very sad loss of course. Certainly an unexpected and tough break, to say the least! This event turned out to be a turning point in my life. My days spent on the bus travelling 90 minutes each way to go to work got rather tedious. I decided to go full time in my private practice Marriage Works, and it has been a fantastic change for the better.
Another light that shone at this time was a friend suggesting I get a pet, which I did. Taneisha was 12 years of age when she came to live with me from a breeder. She was well loved but ready to retire as she could no longer have kittens. I joke, I rescued her from sex slavery – she was a champion Burmese breeding feline. I have always had animals for most of my younger life, raising lambs, fish, chickens, budgies, a duck and cats.
Taneisha as you can see is a beautiful chocolate Burmese (low allergy too!) and spectacularly loving. She has a sixth sense for knowing when a person is down or upset. I was seeing a family and I was surprised when she went straight up to the girl who was agitated and upset and jumped up into her lap. Naturally the child started to stroke her as she settled down to sit. Boy did Taneisha help soothe her.
Pets such as dogs, cats, birds or any animal you personally connect with can become a wonderful and devoted part of a person’s life. The benefits are profound. The unconditional loving of an animal cannot be underestimated. I have seen people care for their pets so tenderly. They will take them for walks, feed them, talk to them and cuddle them, incredibly healing for anyone.
There is scientific evidence from studies of therapy animals visiting nursing homes; hospital units and so forth are helping healing and bringing cheer to all. Only the other day I heard the ‘baa’ of a goat. Now I live in metropolitan Sydney, so this is an unusual sound to hear when it’s not coming from the TV. None of my neighbours has a goat in their yard. I look across my balcony to see the ‘baaing’ was coming from the nursing home across the road. Evidently there was a petting zoo there for residents to touch and connect with physically. What joy I felt as I could see the residents outside in the fresh air enjoying this interaction.
3) You Are What You Eat
It is long known that a healthy diet plays an important part in a persons overall well-being and ability to handle stress. In a large study of 15,093 people who were followed over 10 years, the traditional Mediterranean diet, which includes eating nuts, fruits and vegetables, legumes, fish/seafood, cereals, and monounsaturated oils, had a protective effect and lowered the risk of depression (Sánchez-Villegas et al., 2015). There is a body of thinking from scientists that depression could be partly down to a lack of essential nutrients. There is an added benefit to eating healthily. Food is fuel and if we fill our ‘tank’ with nutrient rich and healthy foods, our system is likely to feel the benefits. This is something we can control in our lives. Luckily fresh vegetables are relatively cheap and easy to come by.
There is also tentative research into the role inflammation may play in depression. Please visit here –Healthy place information on inflammation effects on mental health. so review you’re eating and plan for a healthy start.
4) Movement Counts
Now to our bodies. We are movement machines and much research has been done to demonstrate the effectiveness of exercise on our mind and our bodies. We release endorphins, which are neurotransmitters and powerful brain chemicals to lower stress. Research also suggests that the benefits of exercise involvement may be long lasting. Depressed adults who took part in a fitness program displayed significantly greater improvements in depression, anxiety, and self esteem (Craft and Perna, 2004).
The endorphins are our body’s natural pain relief substances and provide positive feelings, similar to that given by morphine. Perhaps you have heard of the ‘runner’s high’ where a person feels euphoric and energised after a workout. (Craft and Perna, 2004).
Exercise has many positive benefits these include
- Lowering stress
- Improving self- esteem
- Reducing anxiety
- Depression relief
- Better sleeping
- Improves heart health
- Boosts energy levels
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases strengthen and tones muscles
- Strengthens bones
- Helps reduce fat
And it is free. Start small at first. A walk around the block is a beginning, and then adds a bit more. Great if you can access a park or a nature reserve. There is something special about being in nature for us humans. Get your green on. The beach is another wonderful place; take a dip in the ocean and get your dose of positive ions for free. I find there is something very cleansing about being in water that is incredibly healing.
5) Nourish your Spirit
Today in Australia and most of the western world we live in a highly materialistic world, overflowing with technology. The pressure to compete and maintain expensive lifestyles may be draining our spirit. It is thought that a sense of spiritual impoverishment is a contributor in modern societies ever increasing epidemic of depression and anxiety. Perhaps we are undernourished spiritually, leading us to feel a deeper sense of dissatisfaction, disconnection and distress.
In talking about spirituality, I am referring to your belief system that informs and guides your life for it’s highest good. Spirituality is uniquely personal and can be connected with nature, animals or those beliefs espoused by organized religions. Faith can be very healing. Perhaps you grew up in a particular religious system – Judaism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam and Hinduism to name a few. You may want to revisit your local church, synagogue, temple or mosque to reconnect.
If this isn’t your thing you can find spiritual support in many forms. Music offers many people relief and has long been available for spiritual nurturance.
Joining a choir offers us a powerful spiritual expression, support of a group and brain growth. It’s hard to be unhappy for long at a sing-along. I enjoy Salsa as a dance and the music is cheerful and uplifting. I have a Buddhist friend who loves singing in an Anglican choir, so there are many possibilities.
Songs are often intimate and celebratory, offering you harmony- sorry for the pun. Singing lifts your spirits in all senses emotionally and physically. Your brain releases endorphins and oxytocin, powerful mood enhancers and alleviates stress. Music is soul food.
The Power of the Pen.
Writing a journal whether in paper or digitally has been a form of cantharis for centuries. There is something incredibly potent in putting pen to paper that aids in release and reflection. Oprah swears by a daily gratitude list as a supportive practice. Affirmations can be amazingly influential especially when written. I especially like Sondra Ray’s books how to write affirmations, although slightly dated, as they are from the 1970’s. Think about it, our negative thoughts are merely negative affirmations we repeat. What if we were to swap them out for good?
I particularly like Emile Coue’s simple affirmative sentence – “Every day in every way I am getting better and better.” Write and say it out loud and with conviction 20 times a day for 31 days for an experiment. Let us know how it works.
Many a novel takes us on a journey of enquiry, curiosity and fulfilment. For some it may be the Bible or Kabala, or something in a fictional book we can connect with. A personal hero of mine is Rachel Naomi Remen; her books are full of stories that heal (see resources). I also enjoy fantasy novels as usually it involves the underdog rising up and completing a quest, involving their personal growth and triumph for the good guys.
We are so lucky to have access to the written word, whether it is on paper or in our kindle; your local library is full of them, so join up for free. While there you might even look around for a book club to join and discuss the emotional journey an author has taken you on.
Personal blogs are like online diaries, which offer a form of connection. There are blogs on every interest out there – cooking, parenting, fitness, fishing, you name it. Often people can authentically share their perils and success in an honest and intimate manner. Google and find your online community.
Naturally I must mention meditation as a means of spiritual nourishment. Eastern traditions have been using meditation for many centuries both sitting still and in the form of movement. Mindfulness meditation in particular has been taken up by mental health professionals. You can find many groups, self help books and online forums, to access mindful meditation. (See the resources section).
Yoga, Tai Chi and martial arts offer some form of spiritual practice to explore, as well as the added benefit of physical movement in a group environment.
If you want to go for an intensive and have 10 days spare, then I would suggest a vipassana retreat, The word vipassana means “ to see things as they really are” and help you to a greater self understanding and reboot your emotions and priorities. I attended the International Centre for Mediation in Morisset, a Buddhist group from the Burmese tradition headed by Mother Sayamagyi in her life. It was both challenging and divine and all for $50 a day with the healthiest and yummiest food. Yoga weekends away can be a wonderful escape and time out from the world.
Touch and Connection
We are tactile creatures; the touch of massage is supportively intimate with a trusted professional. It can put you in touch with your humanity. Both giving and receiving massage can bring connection and energy to one’s spirit. Many of us do not have another to caress or hold us; massage can give you a safe place to feel nurtured.
I hope you found some help and inspiration in reading this. You are certainly not alone and there is help out there. Please have the courage to reach out. I say this with a heavy heart as last week; dear friends of mine have lost their son to suicide and are heartbroken and devastated. Get help and this too shall pass.
With love, light, hugs and healing,
Here is some helpful information to links for practical support, which I have found to be both ersonally and professionally beneficial. Of course I would love to hear from you if you found something useful, please add your own suggestions and comments you found helpful below. I will personally respond.
Buddhist Vipassana Retreat NSW and worldwide
Emmerson, G. (2012) Healthy Parts Happy Self, 3 Steps to Like Yourself. http://www.resourcetherapyinternational.com/store/p2/Healthy_Parts_Happy_Self_-_By_Gordon_Emmerson_PhD_%282012%29.html available here at a 20% discount follow instructions to download.
Headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds, along with assistance in promoting young peoples’ wellbeing. This covers four core areas: mental health, physical health, work and study support and alcohol and other drug services.
Information and services for young people, their families and friends as well as health professionals can be accessed through this website, headspace centres, online counselling service eheadspace, the Digital Work and Study Service and postvention suicide support program headspace School Support.
Mental Health Support, Resources & Information
HealthyPlace.com is the largest consumer mental health site, providing trusted information on mental health disorders and psychiatric medications from both a consumer and expert point of view. We have online psychological tests, breaking mental health news, mental health videos, and unique tools like our “mood journal” and more. We’re glad you found us. Visit the website Healthy Place.
Ted Talks (Utube)
Ted Talks offer you an amazing place to access free educational and inspirational material starting at five minutes to view. Please find your interests here TED: Ideas worth spreading
Depression, the secret we share, Andrew Solomon.
This is an excellent informational source and heartfelt personal experience of Andrews journey into depression land.
Lift Depression with These 3 Prescriptions without Pills by Psychologist Susan Heitler
Yes you read that correctly and there is science to back up the benefits. Here is what their website says “Laughter Yoga Australia is a Social Enterprise, dedicated to providing health and wellbeing programs to organisations that are serious about the care of their staff and clients.” Click this link to visit Yoga Laughter.
A huge selection to choose from. I personally like Michael Sealey’s voice and others (find one you like) have great free mindfulness and hypnosis resources available to help.
Here is Michael Sealey’s Depression Relief Hypnosis & Meditation for 10 Days:
There are many more, please explore.
I would personally love to hear from you, what you have found helpful in boosting your self esteem, so please drop me a comment section below. I will respond, Thank you and I hope this helps. Please share too.