Happy 1st February all.
January 2021 was the longest month ever known to human kind but I am delighted to confirm that you have made it through. I'm not going to dwell on how challenging January was for everyone, because you already know! Safe to say, it's taken some real strength and perseverance to keep going at times but you did it, and in spite of the lows there will hopefully have been some good moments too. Maybe take a moment to reflect on a couple of highlights of the last month, no matter how small they were, and then let's look ahead to February.
If you follow me on social media, then I'm sure you're already aware that I'm a fan of Dr Rangan Chatterjee - he's a practising GP, has published a couple of books and has a regular podcast, and his main focus is around making small, sustainable changes to our lifestyles to help us to 'Feel better. Live more'. And I really couldn't agree more with that sentiment.
Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely prone to the odd new year's resolution, but I'm such a big believer that the best way to improve our health for the better is to take small steps and accepting that if something doesn't stick then either we say never mind and try again, or we adjust the method to find the best fit; whether we're talking diet, exercise, wellbeing practices such as meditation, improving sleep etc. There is no one size fits all so we won't necessarily get it right first time, so don't beat yourself up you try something and it doesn't work. The important thing is to keep trying! Even if you think your lifestyle is absolutely perfect, there may still be times when you need to adjust it around whatever you've got going on.
What was I saying? Oh yeah, Dr Chatterjee - I am a big fan of his podcast. (Find out more about his podcast here). The episodes are usually pretty long and I think in some ways that's because he is just so freaking interested in what his guest is saying that he gets a bit carried away, but they're always focussed around finding ways to be healthier and happier, and his latest episode (also on YouTube below) was with Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology at Yale University who teaches the incredibly popular free course, the 'Science of Wellbeing'.
I won't repeat everything that is in the podcast because if you have the time then do give it a listen, but in case you don't here are a few highlights:
'Letting off steam' by having a bit of a moan doesn't improve your mental health as much as focussing on the positives
As cheesy as it sounds, taking a pause before bed to think of a few things that you are grateful for, no matter how small, can have a positive impact on your mental health in as little as 2 weeks
Instead of trying to change something about your body, lifestyle or diet, it's much more effective to try changing your mindset
No matter what we're doing, we're generally happier when we're paying attention
If you're looking for motivation to do something, tough love is not the way to go - it's much better to be kind to yourself, accept that you have flaws and that no one is perfect. Talk to yourself like you would a friend - encourage rather than chastise!
One last thing that really stuck with me was that regardless of whether you are introverted or extroverted, having small social interactions - whether buying something in a shop, talking to a stranger about their dog, etc. - has a positive impact on our mental health and not just in the moment. And it even may come with a bonus good deed because if you make the effort with that small interaction then the other person also receives a boost. Even more so if they're struggling with isolation at the moment and doing things for others, being kind, makes us even happier than doing something nice for ourselves.
And that brings me to my new Wellbeing Workshop that I will be running live on Wednesday evenings 7-7:30pm on Zoom. As you may already be aware, I am currently teaching classes for the Better Body Club, a collection of Hampshire teachers of yoga, Pilates, HIIT, dance fitness and much more, and a number of the members asked specifically for guidance and support with mental health and general wellbeing. I have never done anything like this before but I am so looking forward to it. I am very passionate about trying to help people recognise the importance of their mental health.
In these sessions, we’ll explore a combination of self-care and mindfulness techniques, such as breathwork, meditation, and self-massage, as well as discussing different ways to manage stress levels and look after our mental health. The aim being to not only provide people with a toolkit to come back to whenever they need it, but also to improve understanding of mental health and help to establish a regular mindfulness routine. Not only will this help to manage our mental and physical health, it can improve sleep, and lower stress and anxiety levels.
If you have any tips that you find really effective at looking at your mental health, I'd love to hear about them and do let me know what you think about the podcast if you give it a listen.
I'm always here if you want to reach out, otherwise, keep looking for the positives and be kind to yourself,
1. Feel Better. Live More podcast by Dr Rangan Chatterjee