We’re all busy people, with limited time and energy, and a whole lot of other things going on. Most of us (and you’d better believe I’m including myself) baulk at the idea of putting an hour of running or meditating or anything at all really into our daily routine. Give us maximum benefits for minimum investment, am I right? If you could invest ten minutes in your mental health for results that are backed by science, you’d do that though, right?
Great, because I made you this list.
Put on an uplifting, high-energy track that makes you feel good, and dance it out. Music is a powerful way to energise yourself and regulate your mood, and could give you a boost of endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. This is my personal favourite way to lift a low mood. Dance like everyone is watching and you’re the flippin’ dancing queen.
2. Make a gratitude list
There’s an abundance of research on gratitude, and it has been empirically associated with all sorts of wonderfulness. According to science, it can make you happier, improve your physical and mental health, reduce your stress, and give you a better sleep. Gratitude is related to increased energy and enthusiasm, and appears to send a message to your brain to be on the lookout for more good things.
3. Perform an act of kindness
Kindness gives you a boost of happy brain chemicals, improves your psychosocial wellbeing, strengthens your relationships, and makes the world a better place. It doesn’t need to be a huge task; a few kind words or a small donation to a charity you care about will do the job.
You don’t have to sit with an empty mind for hours on end to reap the benefits of meditation. You don’t need to be ‘good’ at it. Whether you choose a guided recording or simply focus on your breath, a short meditation can regulate your emotions and reduce your stress and anxiety.
Expressive writing or journaling about your thoughts, experiences, and feelings has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety. It helps you get things out of your head, process them, understand them, create a narrative, and gain a sense of control. There are even studies showing that people who journal visit the doctor less and have reduced symptoms of chronic disease!
6. Untangle yourself from your negative thoughts
One of my favourite techniques to deal with my own negativity comes from ACT therapy.
1. Identify your primary negative thought.
2. Preface it with ‘I notice I’m having the thought that…’
3. Imagine those words coming from someone whose opinion you don’t take seriously (I use Grandpa Simpson).
4. Give the words a tune and sing it (May I suggest La Cucaracha or any kids’ nursery rhyme?)
5. Let the thought go. Laugh at it as it drifts away if you like.
6. Choose a more helpful thought to replace it with and move on with your day.
7. Go for a walk outside
Triple whammy: movement, sunshine, fresh air. It’s also good to just break up your routine and get a change in atmosphere, and it’s extra beneficial if you’ve got somewhere with a bit of nature near your home or a really amazing ice cream shop up the street or several noisy children in the living room.
8. Take action, any action
When you’re highly stressed or anxious, you may be in the midst of an amygdala hijack. The amygdala is basically the emotion centre of your brain, and when it’s been activated by stress, it gets to work filling your body with fight-or-flight activation and disables your more logical, rational frontal lobes. When you take action, or even make a plan for action, you shift your brain activation away from the amygdala and back to the frontal lobes and conscious control.
Of course, we think one of the best actions you can take is to find a therapist who can help you unpack and heal the source of what’s worrying you and help you build your resilience, happiness, and self-awareness from the ground up. Why not book a free 15-minute consultation with Northside Gestalt Therapy today to see how can help?