coping

Doing Mental Health - To Be

Mental Health Week begins on October 7th, 2018. To celebrate, we are sharing a series of articles by seven different writers each of whom have chosen a verb that for them, relates to mental health. We’re calling this series ‘Doing Mental Health’ and you can look forward to reading ‘to Talk’ ‘to Be’ ‘to Self-Care’ ‘to Change’ ‘to Permit’ ’to Speak’ and ‘to Balance’. You’ll find one new article every day of Mental Health Week and we hope you enjoy each and every one. Yours in mental health, The Psychology of It. 

For those of you having flashbacks to first grade, a verb is a doing word. I’d like to kickstart the week with verb ‘to be’ – the most irregular verb in the English language, and perhaps also the most difficult to do. In an age where busyness is worn as a badge of honour, conversations are only half-heard as our minds constantly scroll our to-do lists already into the next half an hour when we’ll be doing our next task only half-present as we mentally prepare for the following event as well as dwell on how terrible we feel that we only half-listened to our friend earlier in the day, staying in the moment is often an impossible task.

To be in the moment, even only one moment at a time and even only for five minutes in a day, can make a significant and positive impact on your mental health and wellbeing. The beautiful thing is that It’s something you can do in your day without adding any extra work to your already busy schedule. Instead, you can choose anything you’re already doing, and do it mindfully! Simple.

To make it even easier for you, I’m going to give you some suggestions to try. Why not take the principles and apply them to anything that fits in your daily life?

To sit on your favourite reading chair, the one beside the window, and feel the sun warming your arm, chest, leg and face. Tell yourself, I can feel the sun warming my body and name where you are noticing it.

To listen to you dog’s breath as he sleeps with his head on your lap. Pat his head slowly and notice how his breathing changes. Does he wake up? How does his fur feel under your hand? Count the number of pats you give. Notice how you are feeling.

To hold that sip of lemon tea in your mouth, just that little second longer to savour the taste. Notice the sound of the cup hitting the saucer and the smell of that freshly squeezed lemon.

To close your eyes and inhale the smell of the vanilla candle burning. Where does that scent take you back to in time? What memories does that smell elicit? Why not open your eyes and watch the flame flicker for just 30 seconds. For 30 seconds, keep your attention on and coming back to that flame.

To walk along the beach and listen to the eb and flow of the waves as they roll into shore – no earphones, no music, no phone – just ocean. Watch the waves rise and rise and rise until they crash, leaving white foam, and finely flat clear water. Notice how many different shades of blue you can see.

To listen to the crack as you break off one square of chocolate, noticing the anticipation in your mouth as you gently raise it to your lips, smell the chocolatey scent and then place it on your tongue. Let it sit there for a second or two, don’t do anything to it, just let it be. And notice how it tastes and notice your urges to chew it or suck it. Notice your thoughts and observations but remember to tell yourself, I’m eating chocolate.

To focus on your friend’s eyes when they are talking to you. What emotion can you see? Is there laughter there? Does the emotion match what they’re telling you? Where are they focussed? What colour are their eyes? Is there any detail about them that you’ve never noticed before?

To drive your car and count the number of cars that drive past you. Notice their colours and their make. Listen to what song is on the radio and the temperature outside. Read every street sign. Listen to the tick of your indicator. What speed are you doing? How comfortable is your chair?

To take that 'white space' in your diary, you know the space that isn't filled with something 'important'. Take that space, even just five or ten minutes or longer if you can, and don't do anything. Be with yourself. Check in with your body. How are you feeling? Start at the top of your head and work your way down to your toes. Check in with your thoughts? What's happening in your mind? Then refocus your attention to now. What are five things you can see? What are five things you can hear? What are five things you can smell? What are five things you can taste? What are five things you can feel?

Just be.
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Jodie Fleming

Jodie Fleming, a clinical & health psychologist, is an avid, curious and open observer of human behaviour. She's passionate about all things psychological, writing, running, swimming, travelling, stand-up paddle boarding, anything that involves other people, and her dog Mortimer plus around a million other things and people.

After spending much of her career normalising common human experiences to her clients, most of whom feel isolated in their experiences, Jodie decided to cast the net of her messages even further in order to connect people, human-to-human, and The Psychology of It was born.

She hopes to increase a sense of connectedness between us, as opposed to focussing on the differences that our comparative brains seems so readily programmed to do.

The Psychology of It aims to de-stigmatise mental illness and promote better mental health care.

"I'm excited to say that The Psychology of It is my muse - the place where I am able to bring all of the pieces together - where I can write for you about everyday life, demystifying the psychological science behind it and provide you with some handy tools to make your life the most meaningful life you can live."

thepsychologyofit.com.au

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