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Reaching out week 2: Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

As humans, we are not meant to go through life alone, but unfortunately it is within our nature to avoid admitting defeat as much as we can. Most of us, including me, condition ourselves to bottle up our feelings and hide them from others which usually pushes us to breaking point.

 

Something that we all need to internalise and appreciate is that it is not weak, or a failure, to ask for help. Reaching out to others is a sign that we are strong enough to accept and acknowledge the problem, which is a huge step for people suffering with mental health problems.

 

Sharing your problems with someone else doesn’t necessarily mean that person will be able to fix them, or that they will be fixed at all, but getting them off your chest takes away all the power that they had over you while they were in your head. Knowing that you are no longer alone in whatever you are going through can give you some much needed breathing room and a break from the constant stress, anxiety, depression or whatever it is that you are struggling with.

 

Today’s society tell us so much how important it is to be strong and independent, and while this is of course true, it is also important that we don’t value our independence so much that we feel weak when reaching out. To me, valuing it so highly is not independence, it is having too much pride, which is unhealthy and unproductive.

 

Reaching out isn’t just about telling someone else your problems, it’s also about having access to the necessary information and resources that can help you in ways you may not have even thought of yourself. Always, though, the first and most relieving step is talking through it.

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Jack posts

Boxing Day Birdwatching – how a day in the fresh air offered a change in the busy festive period.

by Jack Nuttgens

I spent most of Boxing Day on a birdwatching trip at RSPB Fairburn Ings with my dad. It was the perfect follow-up to the house being full of people and excess of food on Christmas Day; it was sunny, we were in the fresh air (though it was quite windy) and we enjoyed a brisk walk among the trees, around the edge of the lake. And, of course, we were lucky enough to see a wide variety of birds.

 

I won’t spend ages talking about birds, but I enjoy birdwatching (and seeing any kind of animal in the wild) because, amongst other things, they seem to have different personalities; the Northern Shoveller, a duck with a very long bill, looks comically serious; slim, white Little Egrets strut through the mud as though they don’t want to get their feet dirty, and a bright pink male bullfinch eating seeds from a feeder looks flamboyant until it’s chased away by a territorial robin.

 

The rewarding (and frustrating) thing about birdwatching is that it requires patience. Sitting down in a hide and scanning the surroundings, it can appear at first that there isn’t much to see. But after a while- focusing binoculars or a telescope in on a distant group of birds, or identifying something on an island or post, the diversity of life in the scene becomes clear. Small birds in particular, such as finches and sparrows, will fly away at the slightest noise or movement, but waiting a couple of minutes can show you an impressive range of species. And because many birds migrate, revisiting the same place at different times of year will enable you to see different species. What’s more, birdwatchers are usually friendly and enjoy sharing their knowledge with newcomers, especially if there’s something rare around.

 

Apart from seeing plenty of wildlife, the day at Fairburn Ings was a chance to get out of the city. Nature reserves are usually planned to attract threatened species by creating habitats, so most of the best ones for spotting creatures are outside of towns and cities, but some are conveniently close. The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust site Potteric Carr, on the outskirts of Doncaster, has an overgrown, industrial feel, with abandoned train tracks running through it. I haven’t found evidence that going to the countryside and being around plants and wildlife is beneficial to mental health in itself, but Mind’s website has articles about the therapeutic effects of gardening (ecotherapy), and I find that being able to go outside, take a walk and reflect is usually a good idea.

 

Of course, designated nature reserves aren’t the only places that are worth visiting. The benefits of exercising every day, from walking to more challenging sports, are well-documented. So although some of them can be a bit of a trek, nature reserves can be a fun and relaxing place to visit.

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Reaching out week 1: Don’t disappear!

The first week of 2018 is over, and I can honestly say it’s taken me less than 7 days to break almost all of my New Year’s Resolutions. We are often told that the start of a New Year is a chance to improve ourselves, reflect on the past year and change what went wrong.

This can sometimes be a dangerous path, the opportunity to improve ourselves does not disappear forever on January 1st. It’s important not to be too hard on ourselves as we haven’t suddenly developed completely new minds just because the clock turned midnight.

We are still the same old us with, the same great parts, and some of the same problems and we shouldn’t let the pressure of ‘New Year, New Me’ get under our skin. The theme for January is ‘reaching out’, something that we all need to do, and something I know I am sometimes not great at.

When we are feeling unwell, it’s important that we don’t disappear into our own busy minds, as that is is where more problems lie. Our struggles are within our minds, and the best way to free ourselves of them is through our mouths.

The worst thing we can do when we are feeling unwell is to fold in on ourselves and shut the world out, but unfortunately this is often the easiest and most natural reaction. Disappearing into ourselves is, in a way, allowing us to justify the way that we feel, giving our thoughts more power over us.

Sharing your feelings with a friend, family member or even a professional, if it is something you decide is right for you, is a great way of rationalising your thoughts and ensuring that you are not alone.

If you haven’t made one yet, make this year’s resolution to be open and honest about your feelings with the people you trust, take the power away from your stress, anxiety, depression or whatever it may be, and return it to yourself.

Lizzy posts

Gratitude Week 4: Is a new politics of gratitude the answer to all our problems?

We all took a break over the Christmas period, so the final Gratitude post is a little late. Hope you all enjoy it. Happy New Year to you all!

Now that 2017 has come to a close, I know many of us are breathing a sigh of relief. Brexit, Trump, countless tragedies in the Middle East, surely things can only get better! This might seem like an odd way to start a blog post about gratitude, but I do have a point!

Over the last few weeks we have learnt the importance of introducing gratitude practices into our lives, but these ideas can also work on a much larger scale and there are many out there who believe they are the answer to a better future.

Although it might be hard as the majority of us seldom have anything nice to say about politicians, the first step is appreciating the good things about our country and our governments. We should try to acknowledge our achievements and the things about our lives that we may well take for granted.

Rather than just burying our heads in the sand, acknowledging the good means we are able to move forward with a positive and productive mindset, rather than trying to change the game by dwelling on what is wrong with it.

The world of politics is overwhelming, and often cold, faceless and unforgiving. Taking a gratitude approach, and making the connections between the things that we are thankful for in our everyday lives, and the political institutions that make them possible is a way of humanising an all too robotic political culture.

In our lives, we are able to get along with people who oppose our political views, so why can’t this take place on the national stage? The first step to doing this is by being thankful for the things that we all universally appreciate.

Approaching politics through gratitude is a way of connecting what is going on out there, with what goes on in everyday homes, with everyday people. While it isn’t a cure for the world’s many political wounds, surely it’s a step in the right direction?

Lizzy posts

Gratitude Week 2: Write it down! Keeping a gratitude journal.

2 gratitude

As I mentioned in last week’s post, gratitude is a bit of an abstract concept. When I started researching it the first thing I thought was ‘OK, this is all well and good but what are the practical ways I can introduce it into my life’. Much with mindfulness, I researched every day things you can do to be mindful, so this week I’m going to do the same with gratitude.

In my research, the main thing that came up again and again was the concept of a gratitude journal. This is a book that you write in a couple of times a week, however many suit you best, in order to remind yourself of the things in your life that you feel thankful for.

Don’t overdo it

Most studies have shown that it is more effective to write in a journal two or three times a week, rather than every night. It is important that we decide how often to write, and stick to it, and sometimes promising ourselves to write every night is too much of an ask and can make us inconsistent.

Elaborate!

Go into detail about situations, events or things that you are thankful for. Be descriptive about the positive emotions that they make you feel, this will help you to relive these emotions as you write and reread your entries.

Write before bed

Most of my research has shown that right before bed is the best time to enter your journal. This gives you a chance to reflect on the positive parts of the day that has passed. This is especially useful after a day that you might feel hasn’t gone well, picking out even the smallest things that we are thankful for can change our whole perception of the day before we end it by sleeping. Studies have shown that gratitude journals can increase the quality of sleep.

Revisit your happy moments

On days where you feel unwell, or are struggling, look back through your journal and remind yourself of all the things and people in your life that you are grateful for. This can often have a genuine impact on how you are feeling in that moment.

It’s the simple things

Your gratitude journal doesn’t need to be deep, it can be full of simple things, like ‘family’ or ‘a good book/meal/cup of coffee!’, keep it light when you want, and get deep when you want. It’s all up to you! It’s your safe space where you can write whatever you want and not feel judged.

There’s strength in numbers

Write down at least 5 things that you are happy for in each entry.

As always…there’s an app for this!

Gratitude Journal

$2.99 (or the pound equivalent) – easy to use interface with little heart symbols to track what you are grateful for each day!

Mojo

Includes features such as adding pictures and a calendar, you can also import your entries from the gratitude app…

…Gratitude 365 Pro

$1.99 (or the pound equivalent) Available for iPhone and allows users to track their journal day by day, as well as sync to other social media apps.

Day One

$9.99 for Mac, $4.99 for iPhone – a digital diary complete with pictures, maps and notes. Intended as more of a daily journal than an occasional entry journal. This means it might not be suitable for those who are planning on entering just 2 or 3 times each week.

Useful sites

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-journal/

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/tips_for_keeping_a_gratitude_journal

http://www.positivelypresent.com/2011/03/keeping-a-gratitude-journal-to-cultivate-positivity.html

Lizzy posts, Uncategorized

Gratitude – What is it?

BY ELIZABETH O’CONNOR

Gratitude week 1: …But what do I have to be thankful for?

When you’re feeling mentally unwell, often the last thing you want to hear is ‘stop feeling sorry for yourself’, this often comes across as ignorant and patronising, and there are some cases where it is. However, there is a way that we can put this concept to productive use…

So what exactly is the meaning of gratitude when it comes to mental health? According to the Harvard Medical Dictionary, gratitude is:

“a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power”

Introducing gratitude into our lives means trying to replace feelings of self-doubt, and self-pity (both of which are part and parcel of a mental illness) with a sense of appreciation for the positive things in our lives.

Research has shown that feelings of gratitude can do well to replace negative feelings of anger and envy that we may hold within us, especially when we are unwell. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher has carried out tests to confirm that gratitude effectively increases happiness and decreases depression.

This is not to say that anybody reading this is ungrateful in the rude sense of the word. Simply that becoming aware of the feeling and actively working to apply it to our everyday lives can have a beneficial effect.

Realising what we have to be thankful for, and being able to realise this even in the worst times in our life can foster resilience. As well as this, it can help us to put our feelings into perspective. We are not our feelings, and encompassing gratitude can make us realise how much else there is to us and our lives than simply the way we feel at one moment in time.

To link back to my earlier posts, mindfulness is a great way to introduce gratitude into our lives. While we are meditating, or grounding ourselves, it can be useful to focus on things in our life we are grateful for and appreciative of.

Gratitude seems like an abstract topic on the surface, and I must admit that at first I was sceptical over it’s practical uses when it comes to our mental well-being. Over the next month we will be looking at practical ways of introducing gratitude into our everyday lives, as well as the science behind it.

Jack posts

Rainbow Heron’s Self Care Cafe

BY JACK NUTTGENS

Rainbow Heron Night Café- 26th November

The Rainbow Heron Night Café is a safe space for young people to meet on a Sunday evening. Based at the Wellbeing Centre (formerly/ run by Mind?) on 110 Sharrow Lane, it provides activities designed to promote mental wellbeing and self-care, but the people who attend can use the time as they like. When I arrived, one table was beginning to paint plant pots, while another was making mood and task calendars.

The rainbow theme is prominent throughout the room; on one wall is a long mural/ painting celebrating difference, and even the snacks laid out contain almost every colour of the rainbow.

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Around the table, conversations flow pleasantly as people exchange paint colours, brushes and jugs of water. I haven’t picked up a paintbrush since Year Eight or Nine, but found something relaxing about the painting. On our table, some people use masking tape to keep broad strips of the pot free from paint, and make triangular or swirly patterns. Others draw festively themed pots, with penguins in Santa hats, or cartoonish owls and foxes. I draw a tree and some birds, thinking of the Rainbow Heron motif.

At the other table, some people are making Mood Calendars, ruling tiny squares onto bit sheets of card and colour-coding different moods down the side to fill in the days with their feelings. I start on a task calendar, matching the days to tasks that I want to accomplish.

This craft activity, like some others on offer, involves thinking about and recording coping mechanisms. As I see it, Rainbow Heron is a space where everyone can talk about mental health, but nobody has to. The atmosphere is positive; around the table, some people talk frankly about services available, but the conversation also touches on YouTube vloggers and cats. After working on a task calendar for a while, I go back to my pot (now dry), and fill it partway with soil to plant a sprig of lavender in it.

The sessions run from 7 p.m. till 11, but people are welcome to drop in and leave at whatever point they prefer.  The success, as far as I can tell, comes from the relaxed nature; nobody has to take part, and people chat freely, coming and going as they please. I leave at around ten, with my pot, looking forward to the next one.

 

The Rainbow Heron Night Café is a safe space for young people that aims to promote mental wellbeing. The project takes place once a month at the Wellbeing Centre at 110 Sharrow Lane from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. For further details, contact us