Regardless of what our mental health diagnosis is, the urge to binge-eat to comfort ourselves in moments of distress can be overwhelming for many. With the addition of medication which can impact our eating habits, it's important for us to focus on our physical health as well as our mental health. When we purchase a car, our instinct is to keep that possession clean whether it be changing the oil regularly, or washing the immaculate paint. Why shouldn't we treat our bodies with the same respect?
Art therapy is great even for those who don't feel like they have a crafty bone in their body. Colouring, knitting, origami or even wrapping objects with basic materials is an effective way to self soothe, especially in moments of distress. It can give us an opportunity to creatively express ourselves, helping us fall into a much more relaxed state and it can provide a sense of achievement by learning new techniques or enhancing our existing skills. By focusing on an artistic activity we can learn to draw and keep our awareness centred on the activity without allowing other thoughts to enter our mind.
Colouring has been proven to be a popular therapy tool as we can unknowingly train our brains to become more mindful. For thousands of years the creation of circular and geometric designs have been part of spiritual practices around the world, helping increase focus and concentration. In the early 20th Century, Carl Gustav Jung adopted the practice of prescribing colouring to his parents to help reduce their stress levels and increase calmness. By colouring we can activate different areas of our left and right cerebral hemispheres therefore lowering the activity of the Amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotions affected by stress.
"Let's get physical, physical! I want to get physicaaaaal!". Okay, we definitely don't mean 80's sweatbands, leg warmers and leotards that ride up your backside while singing to Olivia Newton-John (but hey, if that's your thing, there's no judgment here). But if you're not already making the time to go for a walk for at least 15 to 30 minutes a day, now is the time to consider adding it to your daily routine.
Walking outdoors is a great way to practice being mindful by listening to the sounds of the wind, trees rustling, people, birds, and even passing traffic. Not only is it an awesome way to practice being mindful, but it's a great way to stay fit and to maintain your mental health. Regular exercise can have a noticeable, positive impact for those with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Not only does it help us to stay fit and healthy on the outside, it also helps positively boost our mood, relieve stress, improve our memory, and also helps us sleep better. Exercise also releases endorphins to energise our minds, and overall is an effective distraction technique for our minds to take time out from the stresses of the real world; helping us reset, recharge, and move forward.
A great way to practice being mindful while exercising is to focus on the rhythm and sensation of your feet hitting the ground, and the pace of your breath. When you feel ready to add more components of mindfulness, start to take note of other sensations such as the wind touching your skin, or the air from your nostrils brushing above your upper lip. Just like any other form of meditative or mindful practice; when your mind begins to wander, gently draw your awareness back to your breath.
Have you ever listened to a song and felt caught up in the lyrics or the melodic sounds? If it seems comforting it's because music is not only powerful, but is also very personal. By finding the right music to boost your state of mind is a great way to explore to your tastes and to open your mind up to new sounds.
There are various forms of Sound Therapy that can be used to help soothe and distract ourselves from grabbing that bag of Doritos out of the cupboard.
If you've ever wanted to be a piano prodigy but don't have the affordability to purchase a piano or keyboard, instrumental music app's such as Smule's Magic Piano are the perfect alternative. Not only can they be slightly addictive, but the Classical piano tracks to play are our personal top pick for distress tolerance, and self soothing.
Another top pick is to compile, create and share music playlists, using apps such as Spotify. Music can be the window to our souls and relatable lyrics that can boost our mood and self soothe can be a helpful way to distract ourselves from an overwhelming desire to binge-eat. Get creative, explore your tastes and have a try at creating a few playlists whether it be an energising and motivating list of tracks, or something to boost your mood and confidence.
Meditation can transport us to any form of consciousness, from a feeling of emptiness and total relaxation to the depth of our unconscious. It is a powerful tool to help us reach a complete state of absolute calm, and provides a temporary escape from the busyness in our lives.
Progressive muscle relaxation teaches us how to relax our muscles using a two-step process. It simply consists of using tension on each muscle and then releasing the tension and feeling the muscle relax.
Take a deep breath in and while exhaling begin to imagine the tension releasing and flowing out of your body, allowing your body to melt into the chair. When you are ready, tighten the muscles in your forehead by raising your eyebrows as high as your can, holding it for a few moments, and then release to allow the tension to fall away. Notice how your muscles feel when you relax them.
Now tense your shoulders and lift them up towards your ears. Hold your shoulders up for a few moments tensing, and then let go allowing all of the tension to drain out of your shoulders. Then follow by tense your muscles in your chest, arms and hands forming fists, and again hold the tension and then release. Continue this until you reach your toes, and remember it is important to keep breathing throughout muscle relaxation exercises. Listen to your body, and be gentle with it. If the exercises cause any pain or discomfort, stop immediately.
Whilst the digital-age at times can leave us feeling bogged down, we should consider ourselves lucky to have easy access to smartphone and tablet apps dedicated to practicing Meditation. If you're new to meditation and muscle relaxation, there are various apps on iTunes and Google Play to help you get started including the HeadSpace app. Or if you need something quick while you're at home, head over to YouTube and search through the library of meditation and muscle relaxation instructional videos.
While our intentions may be to eat healthy and nourishing foods, when it comes to periods of depression, stress, and anxiety, many of us forget to nurture our insides as well as our outsides. But did you know that learning to cook from a new recipe full of wholesome, healthy ingredients can not only feel soothing, but there are also the added health benefits of learning to consume your meal in a mindful way. Mindfulness is already being used in eating disorder clinics to help distract, self soothe, and eat mindfully.
The Enhanced Media Metrics Australia (EMMA) report in 2014 found young Australians were the most likely to eat out and eat fast food, with 60 per cent of those aged 14-29 years are eating fast food at least once a month, compared with the national average of 45 percent. The report also shows that Australians make 51.5 million visits to fast food restaurants every month, and McDonald's topping the list with 42 per cent of Australians visiting for their Cheeseburger or Big Mac fix in the four weeks leading up to the survey. 89 per cent of participants also agreed that minimal processing of food is important to them.
When feeling stressed or low, it is easy to swing through your nearest fast-food drive-thru to pick up some delicious, greasy and unhealthy food. But it is not so easy to live with the regret afterwards, with the feeling that you'll have to do the walk of shame to the bathroom later. It can be a vicious cycle for many, especially if living with food and allergy intolerances. But taking the right steps that are best for you to ease yourself into a pattern of beneficial eating is important.
Cooking and eating mindfully uses the same principles that would form your standard mindfulness practice. If you're sautéing onion in a frying pan, concentrate on the fragrant smell. Once you add your additional ingredients into the pan, then continue to dissect the scent from each ingredient.
The fun part is getting to taste your new creation. Take the time out to dissect each flavour, or use these simple techniques;
At the end of the day it's better to eat something that's good for you rather than binging on something full of unhealthy fats and sugars which can leave us feeling even more low than before. If you're strapped for some healthy snack ideas, perhaps it's time to experiment with the following;
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