News Archive June 2020
The Attitude of Gratitude: giving thanks is good for us
At HFEH Mind we do something called Wellbeing Wednesday tips. Every week, we ask someone different across our teams to reflect on what keeps them happy and well. This is then shared across the whole organisation for some mid-week inspiration.
After hitting a wall when it came to writing a blog post, I realised that there’s value in sharing what works for me. So today I’m talking about gratitude – something that I practice regularly and especially during stressful and difficult times, as a way to support my mental health.
You may think of gratitude as one of those ‘fluffy’ buzzwords. It links with wider self-care activities – another buzzword many people view simply as a hashtag on Instagram not to be taken seriously. However, self-care is any activity that we do deliberately to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. And in that sense, it’s incredibly important and plays a huge part in enhancing our resilience.
It’s safe to say that most people, if not all, are on that pursuit of happiness. Job satisfaction, a loving family, healthy and productive relationships, inner peace, freedom and adventure – whatever happiness looks like to you. However, in this indefinite pursuit of happiness, how often do we spare a minute to be genuinely thankful for what we already have?
In its simplest form, gratitude refers to a ‘state of thankfulness’ or a ‘state of being grateful’. In positive psychology, gratitude is a way of acknowledging the good things of life. Thanking others, thanking ourselves, Mother Nature, or indeed a much higher force – gratitude can enlighten the mind.
Appreciating what you have can have a healing effect, and can allow you to experience less frustration, envy, and regret. Personally, I’m somebody who experiences frequent imposter-syndrome. Not feeling quite good enough is something I have to manage daily. However, my gratitude practice helps. It forces me to reflect upon my mood, my relationships, my accomplishments – and clarify my priorities. What have I achieved so far that allows me to feel good right now? What am I thankful to have experienced? What everyday things do I have access to that I shouldn’t take for granted?
There’s no denying that gratitude in all forms is associated with happiness. Whether we say ‘thank you’ to someone or receive the same from others, we feel satisfied. Neural mechanisms that are responsible for feelings of gratitude have grabbed attention of researchers for years. Some studies have shown that when we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin – two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions. By consciously practicing gratitude every day, we can strengthen these neural pathways until it becomes a more natural state of being.
Now there’s also research that suggests gratitude can counteract depression, as well as support your physical health. The jury is still out on those studies – please do take them with a pinch of salt – practicing gratitude is certainly not the be all and end all of life satisfaction. However, I’ve found that it’s one method that allows me to appreciate life as I know it – and has been especially valuable to me at the moment. I’ve outlined some quick tips below for developing your own practice:
Invest in a journal
Disclaimer: I’ve always been a big fan of the journal and getting my thoughts and feelings out of my head and onto paper. Your journal doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive – it just has to be yours. You’ll invest more of your time and energy into something when you feel a connection to it.
Find the right notepad or book that compels you to use it every day, and then keep it somewhere you typically frequent – perhaps on your nightstand so you’ll see it before you go to sleep or when you wake up each morning.
Set a realistic goal
Be realistic about how many things you’re thankful for – this will likely change with your mood that day. Try starting with five things and building from there. Sometimes you’ll approach your list feeling rubbish, and the idea of being thankful will seem ridiculous. When this has happened to me, I’ve written down that I’m grateful to actually be making the time.
Write it by hand (if you can!)
Try and keep things old school with your gratitude journal. I’ve found that there’s something about the kinetic process of writing it down by hand that allows me to be a bit more aware and thoughtful. However, a gratitude list should be something you want to do, not a chore. So if typing up 5 things on your computer helps you maintain the practice then do it! Don’t give up all together if you feel your habit slipping – switch your approach.
By Amy Woodward
Posted on: 18th June 2020
Me And My Best Self In Lockdown
“If time was your issue before then you have no excuses now, otherwise you are just failing.”
I’m sure many of you have read statements like the one above during this time.
It’s almost like someone is personally attacking you and your way of life.
When I first read this statement I remember feeling guilty. I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing more, especially because I had more time on my hands.
This then led me down a path of not feeling good about myself. Was I a failure for not being the most productive person I could be? Am I lazy because I’m not my best self all the time? What even is my best self? Is everyone else feeling this way?
All of these questions came to mind and then came the onslaught of social media posts. People doing home workouts, people organising their entire houses, people baking, cooking, learning a new language, drawing, painting, and the list goes on.
And then I realised, these are just small glimpses into their lives, this can’t be what they are doing 24/7 during lockdown. Also, why do I keep comparing myself to these individuals online whose lives I know very little about. There must be more to the picture than the one I’m seeing.
I then started to reflect on our current situation. We as a nation are going through a collective traumatic experience. Let that sink in.
We are having to stay at home for the majority of our time, if not all for some. We are having to work from home, have Zoom meetings (which are in themselves very draining) look after our kids, clean and cook a lot more …and we are in the midst of a pandemic.
Then it hit me. Our lives right now are far from what we are used to and what we are going through isn’t normal. So if I didn’t feel like organising my entire house and making banana bread that day then it was okay. It was okay for me to slow down, in fact it was okay for me to do nothing.
But, this doesn’t always work for everyone. Some people need to keep busy because that’s how they cope when life gets difficult. I know I prefer to keep busy and I like sticking to a schedule, whereas many people I know prefer to take it easy and not have that pressure of a schedule.
We will all experience this pandemic in different ways and we must understand each other’s own individual needs.
I also thought about life before and after this pandemic. Life was very “go go go”, it was as if I had my foot on the accelerator and couldn’t slow down. I ended up missing the little things in life, like noticing the leaves turn brown in autumn, the time for a tub bath or a chance to read a book. This made me realise that I wanted more of a balance, so I have now made a promise to myself that these will be things I do even after lockdown because it feels good and it will positively impact my mental health. And who knows, this might be what is my best self.
By Asha Sian.
Posted on: 5th June 2020