This is technique can prevent and soothe anxiety and interrupt unhelpful negative thoughts. Many mental health problems develop because we lose contact with the environment (all that is outside of us), our senses which are there to connect us with the outside world get dumbed down and we end up on auto in our minds which is a major factor in anxiety, depression and self esteem issues.
In this exercise you will use all five of your senses: sight, touch, taste, sound and smell. Some of your senses will be more well developed than others but don't worry, it can take time to strengthen a lost sensory ability. I suggest spending a minute or two on each and you can extend it if you'd like to turn it into a regular practice.
Take a moment to look around the space you are in. Really engage with what you're seeing. Find something that particularly attracts your attention. I always have a plant in the corner of every room as natural phenomena are particularly grounding for me. You may be drawn to a colour or texture. Fully immerse yourself in what you see, notice the shapes and colours, tones and shadows.
Now switch your attention to what you feel. Start by noticing the experience of your feet on the floor, and/or your body in the chair. Take a moment to see what's happening in your body as it touches. Move your hand onto the arm of the chair or reach for something nearby and explore the feeling as you touch it.
Many people like to carry a stone or shell, or other small object in their pocket or bag specifically for the purpose of calming touch when required.
I expect you're getting the hang of this now, so take a moment now just to notice what the sounds, once you have identified one, you can move to another - see how many sounds you can hear and the impact they have on you.
Follow the same procedure using your sense of smell. This can sometimes be less obvious though you can engage with the sense having a 'neutral' response if little is detected. You can seek out a flower, plant, piece of fruit, essential oil (or anything with an aroma) and notice it's impact on you.
A useful exercise for taste is to eat a raisin or small piece of fruit and fully engage with the experience. So often we eat on automatic - next time you have a meal, slow down and fully engage with the sense of taste.
When we engage all five senses we are using incredible tools that our body has evolved over millions of years. Heightening our sensory awareness allows clearer interaction with the world we live in - engaging in this way we allow the world around to become a source of support.
So stop telling yourself a story about what's happening in this moment and use your senses to tell you exactly what's going on in this moment. If you have any difficulties take it slowly or move on. Sometimes peoples sensory awareness is dulled by past trauma or other difficulties. If you find it particularly difficult it may be worth seeking professional help. Let me know how you get on!
The New Economics Foundation in the UK summarises five ways to wellbeing, it's often not as difficult as it sounds to feel well. A review of the most up-to-date evidence suggests that building the following five actions into our day-to-day lives is important for well-being:
With the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.
Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.
Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.
Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.
I hope you enjoy experimenting with these!
Five tips for a better nights sleep.
1. Melatonin - not from a bottle - by going outside in the daylight melatonin is naturally produced in the brain. This is the only way this sleep hormone is produced, so the more time spent in daylight, the more melatonin you have building up each day. The brain doesn't store melatonin so we make it new each day - the more we have the easier it is to sleep.
2. Get a good sleep routine. If you know how long you need to sleep each night (usually 6-10 hours) and what time you need to be up each morning you can work out approximately what your bedtime should be. So if you need to wake up at seven and you know that you need eight hours sleep, you need to be asleep by 11. Simple maths. It's best to stick to your routine even at the weekend as your body will thank you for it.
3. Be aware of your circadian rhythm. Adult humans have a circadian rhythm of 90 minutes which controls energy level and our sleep cycle. When you notice yourself yawning this is you going into the dip of your circadian rhythm where your energy levels naturally fall - this is a good time to go to bed. After you reach that dip your energy level begins to rise again so it's harder to go to sleep.
4. General good sleep hygiene. This means your bed is your bed so best not to do your latest project checking emails and watch films in bed. Although it can be tempting it's better to do these things in a different place if you can, or change your environment a little at night if you have a small space. Your bed should ideally be associated only with sleep.
5. Reducing stimulants and stimulation especially in the evening. Caffeine is obviously a stimulant, so is alcohol, TV screens, loud music, phones. Simple changes such as don't drink caffeine after after lunchtime, reducing it (gradually over time is best). Drink less alcohol which is a stimulant even if it feels relaxing it lowers your quality of sleep. Take the TV out of your bedroom and try and keep your phone in a different room. The Psychotherapist and Neuroscientist Daniel Seigel recommends stopping highly stimulating activity such as TV as much as two hours before bedtime. If something is on your mind it can keep you awake. Write it down and deal with it tomorrow. Complete tasks that need completing, tell someone your problem and get support, or hire a counsellor or psychotherapist if it's persistent intrusive thoughts, memories or worries (in the UK try the Counselling Directory here. Imagine what your ancient ancestors before electricity would have been doing after the sun goes down. Our culture has evolved since then, though we haven't that much!
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Many people believe self-care or putting yourself first is selfish - the truth is far from it. It's so important that we are well cared for and who better to do it then ourselves. We can't help others or contribute well unless our own lives and wellbeing is prioritised. If not we burn out, get too tired, have low energy, are badly nourished, hungover, unkind to ourselves or simply put ourselves to the bottom of the pile where is hard to achieve even the smallest thing.
Self care brings energy, compassion, vibrancy, a sense of worth and encourages our purpose and meaning. We will be healthier happier, stronger, more creative better able to cope with challenges, stimulated - need I go on?
Profound change can come with a simple change in attitude towards ourselves, and some action too. So make a list of 10 things that you can do that make yourself feel good that don't cost anything but you know they make you feel relaxed, calm, happy and worth it. If you treat yourself well, you role model to others how they might treat you, themselves and others. You can see my list - what's on yours? Take a pen and paper and write it down, make sure you stick it up where you will see it and do at least two every day (getting up to doing all ten ideally!). It's your human right to be kind to yourself, so you can take a firm place in this world - the rest will follow.
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A counsellor (Prof. Dip) and psychotherapist (MSc) sharing inspiration and tips for better wellbeing. My knowledge is freely given, please feel free to share after asking! Let's help each other lead satisfying meaningful lives.