If you have ever been affected by stress, or had the black mist of depression descend, you will understand how difficult it can be. The most basic of tasks take on gargantuan proportions, and leave you feeling overwhelmed. The feeling of failure and hopelessness can follow like a dark shadow.
Even on a milder scale, at one time or another, we have all felt unhappy and discontented with our lives. In some cases, prescribed drugs can be helpful, but it’s important to make changes in your life to stop the cycle of negative thinking.
When we feel we are failng there can be a tendency to try even harder in everyday life, and then mentally beat ourselves up for failing. This approach only serves to set up a negative cycle. The body and mind become exhausted and unwell, we use our time inefficiently and once again feel a failure.
However, by slowing right down and taking the time to smell the roses as we live our lives, it is possible to make big changes to our mental wellbeing and happiness.
1. Live in the moment
There are three main aspects to how we view life, namely the past, the present and the future. Each one is important, but there is only one that qualifies as living.
If you are the sort of person who procrastinates over what you said at a meeting, or worries about the unspeakable drunken deed from the night before, it is time to let go. It cannot be changed or undone, and wasting brain-time stressing is a waste of your life.
Likewise we can have no way of knowing how our future will pan out, and time spent worrying about next weeks mortgage payment or whether we will be with the same partner next year is a futile waste of precious now time. Let it go. Visualizing each worry in a floating bubble, that can be blown away, is a helpful tool. Be aware of the coolness of the wind on your face, the sound of your child’s laughter and the joy of holding a loved one in your arms. This is the time when we are truly living.
Try taking up a hobby or sport that involves a degree of solitude and self- reliance. That way your mind must focus only on the task, and there is only living in that moment. There are so many options to suit all. Go on micro adventures, take up horse-riding, try fly-tying, windsurfing, running or simply walking. Painting is an excellent choice. Anything that focuses your mind in the moment.
Art4You is a local studio that is light, airy and welcomes you with open arms. The classes are relaxed and friendly with a variety of options suitable for all levels (including those yet to master drawing stick figures). Art therapy is a great way to express yourself and identify and change negative thoughts. There are lots of daytime and evening classes. Or consider booking yourself into an intensive weekend course (£85 one day/£170 both days) and focus your mind on something creative:
Drawing & Painting Weekends Art4You Scotland 23-24th September, 21-22nd October, 25-26th November
2. Re-evaluate your exercise program
Exercise has been shown to be beneficial in cases of stress and depression, but ensure that you are doing the right sort of exercise. According to Personal Trainer and Chek Holistic Lifestyle Coach, Robert Miller, many people are simply stressing their systems to breaking point:
“Folk tend to go to the gym and thrash themselves on a treadmill or at a Spin class as a means to counteract stress in their lives. It’s understandable as it’s what the media tells them they should do, and there is always the short-term high gained from the endorphins. However, a stressed body is an unhealthy body, and this sort of high intensity exercise can be counterproductive to these individuals.
Put simply, if you have elevated levels of the stress hormone – cortisol – as a direct response to stress, does it then make sense to exercise in a manner that places further physical stress upon the body, increasing cortisol production?
In my experience, low intensity and mindful exercise such as walking and swimming, complemented with weighted-movement sessions, results in a fit, happy, healthy and stress-free client.”
3. Break free from habits that stop you living life to the full
This is about stopping incessantly chasing your tail. In the rather excellent book Mindfulness; a practical guide to Finding Peace In A Frantic World by Prof. Mark Williams and Danny Penman, the practices of meditation and mindfulness are utilised to find a much happier and stress-free life. This technique is not quasi-religious, lotus-eating or robe-wearing stuff, but rather a very practical guide by a Professor of Clinical Pyschology that will make a big difference to how you approach your thoughts. In his book Penman says of mindfulness:
‘Mindfulness also encourages you to break some of the unconscious habits of thinking and behaving that stop you from living life to the full. Many judgemental and self-critical thoughts arise out of habitual ways of thinking and acting. By breaking with some of your daily routines you’ll progressively dissolve some of these negative thinking patterns…’
Habit breaking is straightforward. It’s as simple as not sitting in the same chair at meetings, switching off the television for a while or taking a different route to work.’
Another book well worth a read is The Happiness Trap
Popular myths about happiness directly contribute to our epidemic of stress, anxiety and depression – and some popular remedies are making it even worse! In his original bestselling self-help book, Dr Russ Harris revealed how millions of people are unwittingly caught in ‘The Happiness Trap’. He then provided an effective means to escape: ACT (or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) based on the principles of mindfulness.
4. Laugh it Off
Laughing is good therapy. A good night out with friends usually leaves you beaming from ear-to-ear, and altogether elated, with laughter rather than gin being the happy tonic. Research has shown that laughing, even forced laughter, lowers cortisol levels when measured in the saliva.
If a night of giggling with pals can’t be arranged, stick on a funny DVD or go to a comdy club. If that’s not your thing, then then find a laughter therapy session near you. If laughter therapy is good enough for Greater Glasgow and Ayrshire and Arran NHS, and various mental health charities, then perhaps it’s good enough for you.
There are many great therapies out there, but hypnotherapy is a great tool to help you reduce stress and anxiety within your life.
Claire Young is a local hypnotherapist, and owner at So Hypno, which offers relaxed one-to-one sessions (or Skype sessions if preferred):
So Hypno uses hypnotherapy to allow an entirely natural and deeply relaxed state. This gives an opportunity to tap into the recesses of the subconscious mind, an area that we cannot usually access. When in this relaxed state, the brain wavelength changes and the subconscious becomes open to suggestion and able to accept solutions. The underlying causes of anxiety or stress can be addressed and a way forward found. Hypnotherapy is a very positive and life-enhancing therapy for those suffering from stress or anxiety.
Claire’s sessions are based within Tir Na Nog at Balfron Station.