10 ways to build a healthy mindset

In case you have been living under a rock of late, you will know that mental health has become a humungous issue. But here’s the real doozy. In our 40s we need to pay more attention to our mental health and creating a healthy mindset than ever before. Why? Simply because women aged between 40 and 44 years old are five times as likely to suffer with depression compared with younger women. Sheesh….well aren’t we the lucky ones?

So. Here’s the bottom line. Mindset is the foundation of your mental health. So a healthy mindset = good mental health. Thankfully, it’s never too late to change your mindset, and use it as the foundation to bullet proof your mental health. In fact, your fourth decade is the perfect time to change your life and live differently and that all starts with – yup you guessed it – mindset.

Want to build a heathy mindset and reap the benefits? Well, quite honestly who is going to ever answer no to that?! In your 40s you can either choose to a) make progress or b) make excuses. Those of you who fancy a bit of a) come closer as we share 10 ways to build a healthy mindset in your 40s courtesy of Nick Bracks, author of Move Your Mind: How to Build a Healthy Mindset for Life:

Move Your Mind

Simple movement can make all of the difference. Find a small space at home and do at least 15 minutes of exercise. It can be anything…push ups, lunges, skipping…just move at your own pace! 

Feed Your Mind

Make sure (to the best of your ability) that you are eating well and drinking enough water. Also make note of the content you are feeding your mind with (social media, news etc) and discipline yourself to only spend a certain amount of time per day on them.

Connect Your Mind

Call your best friend or a loved one (or a few of them) and offload your stress. Make it clear that they can do the same to you. Being heard can go a long way. And if you are feeling adventurous, spark a conversation with a stranger and see where it leads!

Still Your Mind

Take 5 minutes or more a day to sit with your thoughts. There is no perfect way to do this…you can use a mantra, focus on breathing, or use an app (there are hundreds of free ones online). Just give yourself the time out. Also, stress can affect our sleep patterns. If we follow the healthy behaviours above, we will sleep better and in turn have less stress.

Make it a habit

If we do not create daily habits we will not make long term change in our behaviours. Start by picking the most important thing you want to change and do it regularly for a month. You will be surprised how much change happens in a small amount of time and will become empowered to create other new habits.

Change it up

We can get caught in a rut as time goes by. Humans really are creatures of habit. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If we stay conscious about things we want to change and don’t allow ourselves to just go through the motions we will keep ourselves feeling fresh and vibrant.

Do things that scare you

As above, by doing things that scare us we keep our sense of adventure alive. What is something you have always wanted to do but have been too scared? I am sure you won’t regret it if you give it a go.

Reframe how you look at failure

As I discuss in my book, we often view things as either ‘succeeding’ or ‘failing’. If we can reframe that into ‘succeeding’ or ‘learning something’ then we will be more likely to take risks as it becomes a win win.

Challenge stereotypes

We are told by society that we should be married, have a certain job, live in a certain place, have kids etc by a particular age. But why? Who actually decided this? It makes no sense at all. Sure if someone else wants that then good on them, but we get to set our own system of what a successful life means. Ignore what others think and live life the way you want…at any age.

Surround yourself with people that inspire you

It really is true that we become a product of the five people we spend most of our time with. As time goes by we can get stuck spending time with people who no longer serve us. Challenge this and assess those around you. If people are no longer serving you then maybe it is time to look at meeting new and more like minded people.

How are you trying to build a healthy mindset in your 40s? Do share in a comment below and connect with us on Instagram here where we will be continuing the conversation.

NICK BRACKS is the author of Move Your Mind: How to Build a Healthy Mindset for Life (published by Wiley). He has pursued various entrepreneurial projects since earning a Bachelor of Business at RMIT. He has successfully launched five companies including founding his eponymous men’s underwear label, underBRACKS; a successful restaurant venture; co-founding a nutritional supplements company; and co-founding Happy Waves. Nick has presented two TED Talks – one covering how creative and entrepreneurial drive can help combat depression, and a second on the growing suicide epidemic.

Nick now spends his time creating educational content through his Move Your Mind podcast and courses. Nick’s professional life and personal development are perfectly intertwined. He lives between Australia and the United States.  

Photos by Binti Malu, Karolina Grabowska, Nina Uhlíková from Pexels

Hangovers in your 40s

Come round for a home cooked speciality spaghetti bolognese I said. It will be very chilled and lovely I said. We have some gorgeous red wine to accompany our grown up, civilised meal. How this descended into tequila shots at 11pm and toilet bowl hugging for a full 24 hours was entirely my fault and one I regretted as I was left quivering in a hot bath 12 hours later gingerly attempting to nibble a banana in a sad attempt to resurrect my soul. Herewith was my very abrupt and uncomfortable introduction to hangovers in your 40s.

Hanging

I kid you not, it’s been over 10 years since my last stonker of a hangover. I could never really handle alcohol and, to be honest, it’s a blessing in disguise. My body simply rejects it and although unpleasant, it means I’m a cheap date! It can be rather annoying. Once me and my bestie were drinking homemade woo woos on the tube en-route to Road House in Covent Garden circa 1999 when I unceremoniously puked the minute I walked in. We hastily left and that was the end of the night. I’ve since taken to enjoying one glass of something expensive, organic and fabulous.

Feeling somewhat embarrassed at the damage I’d done to my body, I called on expert advice so you guys don’t have to suffer the same indignity. At this point I would like to say a huge thank you to my incredibly supportive husband who, by the way woke up fresh as a daisy, went to the shop to buy me a Lucozade Sport which I sipped with such trepidation. My children were given a real life lesson into the after effects of alcohol that day so at least there’s one positive!

hangovers in your 40s

Ask the experts

Claire Snowdon-Darling is an alternative health expert, presenter and educator. As a menopause and hormones expert, Head of The College of Functional Wellness and founder of kinesiology clinic, Balanced Wellness. I asked her to explain what happens to our bodies during a hangover.

‘There are a few things going on when we are detoxing. Firstly we are dehydrated so making sure you drink lots of water. If you can’t stomach water on it’s own add some mint or cucumber or sometimes having sparkling water helps.

Next the liver is busy breaking down toxins into non-toxic substances (this is called Phase 1 detoxing) then trying to eliminate them (Phase 2 detoxing). To effectively do this the liver requires amino acids AKA protein and sulphur AKA green veg! Carbohydrates won’t help you here even though you are probably craving them. This is when it’s best to plan ahead and have some food ready to go in the morning. Eggs is a good place to start, ideally with something green to go with them like spinach. 

When we drink alcohol we flood our body with carbohydrates that quickly turn to sugar which means our blood sugars spike. What goes up must go down and when the blood sugars plummet we can get all sorts of symptoms such as nausea, feeling shaky and headaches. To avoid this avoid having chips or toast at the end of the night but instead plump for some protein. Yep, that kebab is actually quite a good idea if you avoid the pitta bread and chips. “End of the night protein” can really stop a lot of the symptoms the next day!’

Dr Sarah Yelland is a 40-something mum of twins, health and wellness coach and General Practitioner specialising in Women’s health, Menopause and lifestyle medicine.

Dr Yelland agrees that as she gets older, she’s less able to handle her drink. The intensity and duration of the hangover gets worse too.

The hunt for the hangover remedy

‘Sadly the ‘cure’ shall remain an urban myth- it just doesn’t exist- and I hate to be a party pooper if you are already suffering the effects of the night before, but prevention is definitely better than cure.

Most people thinks hangovers are all about the dehydration but that’s not the whole picture, it’s a little more complex.  When the body metabolises alcohol it produces chemicals and enzymes which stress out our cells, make our blood sugar go wonky, cause inflammation, oxidative stress and pump out hangover causing free radicals that need mopping up. Overwhelm the system and you’ve got your classic head pumping, stomach churning, brain fog of fatigue.

So what can you do?

hangovers in your 40s

Here comes the science bit

Before you go out

  • Eat- food especially carbs & fats will slow your absorption of alcohol- giving your body a chance to keep on top of the alcohol processing, and get rid of the hangover inducing toxins, before it is overwhelmed.

Whilst you are out

  • Avoid darker drinks – these contain natural chemicals called Cogeners- these are a cause of inflammation of our blood vessels and for many of us these will make your hangover feel that much worse.
  • Drink soft drinks in between, and preferably not the fizzy variety. Fizz speeds up the absorption of the alcohol- and like I said above, we want to Slow. It. Down..

The morning after

  • Get hydrated- you will definitely be pee’ing a lot more, add that to sickness and even diarrhoea and dehydration will play a part in how rubbish you feel. 
  • Eat breakfast (if you can)- a healthy hearty and balanced breakfast will help not only maintain blood sugar levels- a cause of fatigue and brain drain if they drop low- but also if you can get some colourful fruit and veg, will provide a healthy dose of antioxidants to mop up those nasties.
  • Deal with the inflammation- anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or aspirin will always be one of my go to lifesavers.
  • Settle your stomach- antacids like Rennies, Gaviscon or Nexium (esomeprazole) can help you not only ease symptoms but allow you to eat and drink.
  • Caffeine- okay so this doesn’t really deal with the hangover, you might just feel more alert after a lovely cup.
  • Move- ramping up your metabolism will help to fire up the systems to burn it off (just don’t over do it- remember the systems is already under stress
  • Sleep- sleep is our most restorative state, the body needs time to repair and focus all of its stress blasting systems on the effects of the alcohol metabolites.
hangovers in your 40s

Finally supplements

I know many of us want a “natural” or alternative approach to conventional medicines. Although research on supplements is limited, and the science gets a bit grey,  a few studies suggest the following might help reduce symptoms… and lets be honest after some hangovers every little helps.

  • Zinc
  • B Vitamins
  • Red Ginseng
  • Prickly Pear extract
  • Ginger
  • Borage Oil (from the seeds of starflower)

Let’s be honest the only real way to get away without hangovers is alcohol in moderation, moderation, moderation.’

What are your tried and tested hangover cures? Let us know by commenting below. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram!

I tried naked yoga and here’s what happened

It seems that being naked is having a bit of a moment. From naked yoga, to the rebirth of the nudist beach as well as influencers baring all on Instagram, slowly being naked is starting to not only be something you do whilst in the bath.

I actually grew up in a household where being naked wasn’t a big deal. As weird as it was being confronted with my mum’s drooping boobs and catching sight of my dad’s penis aged 8 on a daily basis, I actually have a lot to thank my parents for. Being naked in front of me was probably one of the best things they ever did for me in terms of my body image and self-acceptance. Thanks to them I never felt that weird about being naked, even in front of other people. I continued this trend in our house, even to this day.

But even still, when The Naked Yoga Effect by Doria Gani landed in my hands, my daughter part-balked and part-sniggered at me with disbelief that I was entertaining the idea of doing yoga…..naked.

What’s the big deal – I thought – doing naked yoga in my own home? I wondered whether doing yoga naked could really feel that different. After all, a sun salutation is a sun salutation, naked or not…..or is it?

The Naked Yoga Effect

Doria Gani wrote The Naked Yoga effect having overcome a critical illness (cancer), having experienced first hand the liberating effects of practising yoga naked. It was the day after my dad had told me that he had a mutation in his BRCA1 gene widely known to be a cause of various cancers including breast cancer. I had a fifty percent chance of having inherited the gene and would also need to be tested. I was feeling ill at ease in myself having already had to have my entire thyroid removed due to the existence of pre-cancerous cells over a decade ago. I needed to feel free from the mental prison I was currently trapped in.

My experience of naked yoga

And so I grabbed my copy of The Naked Yoga effect, and flipped over to The Beginner’s Yoga Guide. I stripped off all my clothes there and then with purpose – relishing in the moment. That act alone felt so unbelievably freeing.

I instantly felt the difference as I moved through the sun salutation sequences. It felt amazing to not have a single piece of material on my body – feeling the gentle air against my skin. I felt more in tune with my body – and indeed myself – during a yoga practice than I had ever been.

I didn’t mind seeing my breasts swinging down underneath me, or seeing the folds of my tummy from my vantage point. For I was doing something mighty and I could see every single bit of it – every single movement and muscle working away without anything blocking my view.

I think part of the reason naked yoga feels so empowering is that you are doing something you might ordinarily do, in a way you wouldn’t ordinarily do it. So it’s not something completely new and hairy scary, but the fact that you are doing it completely bare makes you incredibly aware and mindful of everything. It also puts you gently out of your comfort zone. It’s a beautiful feeling! Just you, and yoga without any barriers, annoying bits of material or limitations. I honestly never realised that being naked could be such an inspiring and positive act.

Is naked yoga for you?

If you want to feel more comfortable in your skin, practice self-kindness, reconnect with yourself after some form of personal struggle, feel stronger and more confident, more positive or be more mindful that take off your clothes, and get on your yoga matt….because you’ve got nothing to lose apart from the clothes you are wearing.

What’s next?

I loved the feeling of having this special, private practice all to myself. Would I do it in a group class? Well, never say never, but for now, I’m happy to practice naked yoga just by myself. Just me, my body, and I.

Do you think you could give naked yoga a try? Do leave a comment below and connect with us on Instagram here to keep the conversation going.

How to keep calm and carry on in your 40s

Being in your 40s can be a funny old time. On the one hand you can feel mentally fierce and fabulous, on the other hand your body starts letting you know its age, and you are teetering on the brink of hormonal calamity otherwise known as the menopause. But hey! who are we to let all of that stop us from living our best life in your 40s?

But the thing is, in your 40s, you can no longer take for granted all the things you had done previously – especially when it comes to health (both mental and physical). The fact of the matter is, whether you like it or not, you are on a one way ticket towards perimenopause – a whole can of worms hormonally – as you edge close to the menopause (more on that in our upcoming article!).

Here, Kate Chaytor-Norris author of I Wish My Doctor Had Told Me This shares her top ten tip for keeping calm and carrying on in your 40s:

Be calm

Do anything that makes you feel calm – this helps the adrenal glands to work optimally – if we are running lots of stress, they then cannot take over the job of producing sex hormones to maintain a balance. 

Balance your blood sugar levels

This is so that the adrenals do not have to produce stress hormones when they are swinging up and down.  Try to avoid refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta rice etc) to reduce your sugar intake as much as possible and make sure that you have some source of protein with every meal or snack.

Breathe

This is probably the single most important thing that we can do for our health – breathing deep down into the diaphragm (fill the balloon in your abdomen) and practise exhaling more slowly.  This calms the body and so that everything works better.  If you extend the out breath this also helps to switch the body out of fight/flight.

Meditate

This for me is about stilling the mind so you can do this whilst walking, running or with any activity where you can switch your mind off. When I walk the dogs, I try to really focus on what the dogs are doing to bring me into that moment, instead of pounding along thinking about all the emails I need to send. It really helps.

Embrace nature

Be outside in nature and ideally with your bare feet on the earth/grass or if it is in the midst of winter, hug a tree.  This fills the body with free electrons which act as antioxidants helping to reduce the ageing of our body. Nature sounds help to switch off the fight/flight stress response.

Sleep

Sleep is a hugely undervalued activity – my rule of thumb is if you have to wake up to an alarm you are probably not getting enough sleep.  Try to be strict about bedtime, and as much as you can, go to bed at the same time each night.  If you struggle to get off to sleep watch your bedtime routine, keep it gentle and calm (no heart thumping thrillers or news at 10) with low lighting if possible.

Support your liver

Man-made toxins in our environment, such as pesticides and household detergents can overwork the liver. The liver is responsible for clearing out excess hormones, so to help it work better eat more cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts – as they help support the detox pathways in the liver. An optimally functioning liver can really help you through the menopause.

Drink more water

Try to make sure that you are hydrated every day as our bodies do not function properly if dehydrated. To work out how much water to drink, take your weight in kgs and multiply by 0.033 – this will give you the amount in litres that you should ideally be having daily.

Eat a rainbow

…of different coloured foods every day (think red pepper, broccoli, sweet potatoes, red cabbage, kale). Not only is it a joy to sit in front of a colourful plate but the antioxidants in the different coloured pigments help to reduce ageing and inflammation in the body.

Hug

…as much as you can and if you are on your own or self-isolating hug yourself- wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze tight.  This helps to increase levels of oxytocin, a hormone that lowers stress hormones, balances sex hormones, reduces cravings and helps with sleep.

How do you keep calm and carry on in your 40s? Share your tips with us in a comment below or keep the conversation going on Instagram here.

Reader offer: Get 20% off I Wish My Doctor Had Told Me This with the code KATECN20 at checkout here.

Kate Chaytor-Norris is a Nutritional Therapist who has made it her mission to empower people to heal themselves. She trained at the Institute of Optimum Nutrition and has been practising for the past ten years. Kate is also trained in Health Kinesiology, Nutrigenomics, counselling and PSYCH-K®. She lives in Yorkshire with her husband and three children.

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny from Pexels

How to live an alternative lifestyle in your 40s

We’ve all the the feeling, at some point, in our lives where we’ve thought ‘what the f*ck am I actually doing?’ My fu*k it moment was when I got on a plane to Costa Rica where I met my Prince Charming. We are currently living happily ever after. It’s neither the time, or place, to tell my story but if you want to read all about it you can buy my book here!

If you’re not smug as shit like me, then perhaps an alternative lifestyle is something you could look into. Life’s unforgiving carousel relentlessly goes round and round and round until, eventually, we pop our clogs. Hum Drum-ness, Groundhog Day, monotonous tasks can become all consuming. Take the laundry basket for example, how accomplished do you feel when the basket is empty. I feel triumphant. It’s so short lived because before bedtime the basket is half full (or half empty) again. But I’m not talking about the natural boredoms, some people have stopped the carousel. Not only did stop it, they jumped off it straight into the river…

Why I ditched city life for boat life

Okay so it wasn’t quite so dramatic – she moved onto a barge but when I saw Charis’ story, I had to share it.

‘In January 2021, during UK lockdown no. 3, I moved out of my rented two-bedroom flat in affluent North Oxford onto a knackered 68ft narrowboat. Currently, the boat & I are moored up on the river on the outskirts of the city and the other morning I watched an egret fishing from my living room.

Living off grid

What prompted a 40 something woman who had spent almost 20 years in the city to move onto a tiny floating space amidst nature? Many things. The alternative lifestyle seed being planted when my partner of almost a decade and I split up and I could no longer afford the flat. I sublet a room to a lovely Spanish couple, he was an incredibly tall, laid-back chef who moves very quietly, she was a tiny dynamo who made so much noise it was like listening to a tornado approach and was obsessed with cleaning (I am not). It was an amusing couple of years living with them. They made sure I was well fed and happily helped look after my cat, Babushka, so it worked. Until it didn’t.

Burying my head in the sand

I had taken a wage drop after stepping back from hospitality management and to be completely honest, I was drinking a lot which costs money and it wasn’t long before my situation quickly became financially unviable. I did what all sensible people do, buried my head in the sand, and drank some more because I couldn’t see a way out. And even though I knew what I was spending on booze would make quite a difference to my financial difficulties I simply didn’t acknowledge it. Not drinking was completely off the table.

I continued to struggle until push came to shove and the landlord let me know he needed to have building work done. I knew I couldn’t afford to rent a flat on my own anymore so I felt that I had two options (a) find a room to rent which would probably mean having to give up Babushka or (b) leave Oxford, which at the time I didn’t want to do.

Fortunately for me, a friend offered me his boat to live on for a few months… it’s been six months so far and I am loving it. Waking up surrounded by nature daily is pretty magical. I moved on to the boat because I could no longer afford the rising costs of city living and in turn, I have been given an experience that is invaluable.

Looking forward

Boat life has grown my confidence, boosted my resilience, made me more aware of my own resourcefulness, and is teaching me to look after myself, all unexpected bonuses. I have stopped drinking (136 days and counting at the time of writing), I’m gradually dealing with my finances and mentally I am in a much better place. Would that have been the case if I had continued with a fast-paced city way of life? I’ll never know, but what I do know is that I have fallen in love with this way of life, it’s given me so much!’

You can follow Charis’ boating adventures on Instagram here


After struggling for years with her identity, battling low self-worth and unable to find where she was meant to ‘fit’ in the world, Carolyn Hobdey embarked on a process of deep self-discovery; it led her to leave the corporate world behind and focus instead on helping others to bring about an alternative lifestyle.

Today Carolyn is the Founder and CEO of MayDey Limited. She works to share and guide others through the ‘How To’ process that she’s discovered along the way. Living in North Yorkshire, in her spare time, she trains in boxing & weight-lifting, sings in a choir, learns Latin & Ballroom dancing and is a car enthusiast.

Carolyn’s alternative lifestyle story

‘I used to have a definite idea of what ‘success’ looked like. The big job, the house, cars, clothes, holidays, perfect relationship/family… When I abruptly lost all of that mid-2018, I was forced to reassess who I was and what I wanted from life. As I began to put back all those totems of success, I had a creeping unease. It eventually made me realise that none of those things had made me happy.

I knew that I wanted – needed – something different. I was a classic people pleaser; I’d spent decades dimming my light, but all it’d done was make me feel trapped. Not just in my life, but inside my own body.

It took a year to determine the alternative. To see the world beyond the corporate bubble that I’d occupied for 25 years.

I’d worked in Human Resources for the world’s largest employers and recognisable brands. Don’t misunderstand me, it wasn’t all bad – I had amazing experiences, met brilliant people, grown, developed and travelled. I’ll forever be grateful for what that time gave me and I’m not saying I’d never go back. But I’d grown weary. I’d worked relentlessly and, despite its ‘tea and tissues’ image, HR is tough. You see every aspect of the human condition – the good and the bad. I was tired. Tired of trying to persuade grown-ups to behave properly.

Writing our own script

Instead, I wanted to use my story to help others. For many years my friends had been encouraging me to write a book. After my life implosion I took the plunge. I shone a light into the dark corners of life and talked honestly about what it meant to be human – the failures, self-doubt, mistakes – all the stuff you might rather no-one knew.

It became the platform for a conversation about the conversations we have with ourselves. Talk about self-talk. Speak about mental, physical and emotional health. To talk about how we have it within us to change the things we don’t like about ourselves and our lives. That we can all achieve a well-lived life – if we just take some simple steps to understand what that means to each of us. To write our own script.

Corporate Isolation

What I feared most about leaving corporate life was feeling isolated. What I have found is how much less isolated I feel. The only person I ‘compete’ with is me. There’s no politics. I spend time with other small-business owners who understand my journey and give selflessly of their time and support.

Now ‘success’ is using my life change to help others change theirs.’

Carolyn’s book, Redefining Selfish, is out to buy now.

Have you had enough? It’s never too late you know. We might be in our 40s but you know what Lenny Kravitz said, It Ain’t over ‘Til It’s Over. Would you consider an alternative lifestyle? Comment below and connect with us on Instagram here to keep the conversation going.

Finding happiness in your 40s – this summer and beyond

Life starts at 40….or does it? While some people might already living their best life in their 40s, others are feeling miserable as muck wondering what has become of their life. But wait for it…apparently being in our late 40s is the most miserable time in our lives. Now there’s something to look forward to…..NOT! Damn it, I thought I would be swinging by the chandeliers by then. So is finding happiness in your 40s a total pipe dream? Or can we still take life by the balls and throw a big two fingers up in the face of the midlife slump.

Well good news people because yes, happiness in your 40s feels as the scarlett pimpernell, here  Andy Cope and Paul McGee – authors of The Happiness Revolution – share their top tips for finding happiness in your 40s – this summer and beyond. Taken from the science of wellbeing, here’s how to have the best summer of your entire life that will help you feel fiendishly fantastic rather than flat as a pancake.

Going viral

Human beings are wired for emotional contagion. Your feelings and attitudes will spread. In holiday terms, if you have small children, they will be as happy in Margate as they are in Miami. So long as you are!

Similarly, one negative family member will lower the tone of the entire holiday party. Top tip: make sure it’s not you!

The $64,000 question

According to an esteemed researcher at the University of London’s Institute of Education, here are some monetary values of happiness:

  • Seeing friends and relatives is equivalent to a pay rise of £64k a year
  • Chatting to nice neighbours is worth £37k a year
  • Getting married is worth £50k a year
  • And the biggy? Excellent health is estimated to be worth £300k a year to you

Hopefully you can tick some of those boxes, in which case, you are enjoying ‘mental wealth’. Whatever the summer brings you, be grateful.

Happiness is Maximized at 57°F

Weird I know, but the American Meteorological Society found current temperature has a bigger effect on our happiness than variables like wind speed and humidity. It also found that happiness is maximized at 57 degrees (13.9°C), so, technically, point number 1 is bang on – you’re more likely to find happiness in Margate than Miami!

Stop musterbating

Musterbating’ is when you turn things you’d like to have into things you absolutely MUST have. Every advert on the TV is designed to make you unhappy with what you currently own, luring you to Amazon to spend money on products that will make you happy. Mr Postie’s next day delivery does indeed create a spike of happiness, for an hour or two, before you’re back online seeking another hit.

So here’s an interesting list to write… the top 10 happiest moments of your life. I’ll wager that most of your top 10 happiest moments are ‘experiences’ rather than ‘products’. So, to squeeze maximum happiness from your summer, throw yourself into experiences (picnics, BBQs, walks, swims, bike rides, pub lunches, sandcastles, hugs…)

‘Forest bathing’

The Japanese call it ‘shinrin-yoku’. We call it ‘going for a walk’. A study from the University of Sussex found that being outdoors made people happier: “Being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments.”

To be fair, no University degree is required. The point is obvious; fresh air – lots of it – makes us feel fab. Top tip, while you’re out and about, walk with your sense open. Bathe yourself in mother nature.

Be the Pied Piper of Happiness

Your emotions are contagious – they leak out of you and ‘infect’ those around you. So, when you make the conscious choice to be positive and upbeat, other people will catch your good vibes. So, top tip, be enthusiastic for 4 minutes and everyone else will feel great too!

This is especially important if you’re camping in the rain. It only takes one idiot (you!) to be enthusiastically jumping in puddles and, before you know it, the entire campsite is doing the same. When you are old and prune-like, you will look back on your life and realise that these ‘little moments’ were, in fact, the best bits of your life.

So here’s to happiness in your 40s and saying no to being miserable and middle aged this summer and beyond!

***

Dr Andy Cope and Professor Paul McGee have combined forces to pen THE HAPPINESS REVOLUTION: A Manifesto For Living Your Best Life (published by Capstone, June 2021). It’s the perfect summer read. It won’t change the world, but it’ll certainly change yours.

About the Authors

DR ANDY COPE is the UK’s first ever Dr of Happiness. He has a passion for motivation and positive psychology and strives to influence people to think differently. He founded Art of Brilliance in 2004 to blaze a new trail – one that was non-academic, totally rooted in the real world and that would make a massive and immediate impact on individuals and organisations. Andy is a sought-after keynote speaker, bestselling author, and authority on happiness, motivation, and human flourishing

PROF PAUL MCGEE is a visiting professor at the University of Chester and is one of Europe’s leading speakers on the subject of change, resilience, wellbeing, and communication. His book SUMO became a Sunday Times best seller and his book on Self Confidence reached number one in the WHSmith’s business chart and remained there for a further 24 weeks. His books have sold over a quarter of a million copies worldwide. He has appeared on BBC Breakfast television and is a regular contributor on BBC Radio.

Photo by Julia Avamotive from Pexels

How to manage boundaries while respecting others

I am the self professed Queen of boundaries. Since turning 40, I’d say I’ve found managing boundaries even easier.

Managing boundaries is all about enforcing your personal terms and conditions. It’s now or never so if you need to set some out, you’ve come to the right place for some advice to manage boundaries.

For me, there are many situations where I can feel uncomfortable. It’s not a confidence issue nor one that I actually want to fix. For example, I simply do not enjoy being in a group of women. SO, I just don’t join in. I literally have the opposite of FOMO. The idea of a girls’ night out makes me shudder. Perhaps it’s all those hormones in one place. Who knows? Who cares! Large groups of people don’t enthral me at the best of times. Perhaps it’s because I like being the focus of the attention. I like to be able to interrupt before I erupt, much like a toddler, so I’ve found my people. They like me for my quirks and understand in no uncertain terms not to invite me to girls’ nights out!

I need my own space. I do not like sharing. If there’s a family event, I insist we have our own accommodation. The noise gets too much. The constant ‘togetherness.’ I can’t cope with it. However, I respect that my husband comes from a big family so he likes it – this is where the respect and compromise comes in. We discuss it and come up with a solution. I like to work with exact timings. Again, not something I want fixing, I thrive on routine and habits. So we set out a plan before we go anywhere. God forbid I might enjoy myself and stay later! It doesn’t happen often but it can and when it does, it’s wonderful. Setting boundaries makes me feel in control in a positive way.

There are no set rules in how YOU should live YOUR life. But what is important is that you live YOUR best life. Communicate with your friends and family. Let them know if when you’re uncomfortable in situations. The last thing you want is to live with resentment.

Firstly let’s take a look at why boundaries are awesome: Katharina Wolf Counsellor (MBACP) & PR Account Manager says, “they create space for people to exist in, rather than shutting others out – obviously, they can do that, too, and therefore tend to get a bad rep. Working from this line of thought, that boundaries are a safe place, boundary setting can become easier (among examining the reasons why other people are more important than you – boundary-pushing/crossing is happening.) Especially the over 40s can be affected as their upbringing might still be very much people-pleasing, own-needs disregarding inspired (especially women)”.

To add to that, accredited coach Emma Jefferys aka Action Woman offers her insights to managing boundaries. Her top 5 tips are:

1. What do you need?

Know where the edges are: if you don’t know your breaking point then it’s hard to stop intentionally before you reach it. So notice what you need, what makes you feel good and on top of things. Consider sleep, nutrition, alone time, family time etc. For example if you know that one late night is enough for you then more than that is your edge. Check in daily with how close to the edge you are personally and what you need right now.

2. Set your limits

For you and for others: the whole point of knowing our edges is to stop before we reach them. Sometimes this is about saying no to ourselves so perhaps we only go out on Friday night and not Saturday too or we build in some extra rest time. And other times it is about setting these limits with others.Perhaps you don’t want to fill the diary every single weekend. Or want to shut your laptop down at 6pm and have no screens til morning. Whatever it is that you need think about how you communicate that to others that need to know it.

3. Just say No

Know you can say no and still be a good person: this should be a daily reminder. Your self-worth does not depend on how much you do for others…..repeat after me……

Your self-worth does not depend on how much you do for others.

4. Get your priorities right

Schedule your priorities: most people are excellent at prioritising their schedule but what if the wrong things are on there.  Take time each week to schedule the things that are important to you. Whether that is exercise, meeting a friend, calling your mum or getting an early night, plan to do it and then don’t cancel on yourself.

5. Don’t beat yourself up

Forgive yourself daily: no one is perfect, life isn’t perfect, and we won’t always get things right. Sometimes setting boundaries is having to do lifelong habits (like people pleasing) so have a go, don’t beat yourself when it goes wrong, celebrate when it goes right and know that there will always be another chance to practice. 

6. Ask for Help

Don’t do it alone: If you are trying to maintain boundaries that you don’t find easy then find support. Perhaps practice saying no with a friend. Ask your partner to nudge you if you’re mindlessly watching TV past the curfew you’ve set for yourself. Use an app to limit the amount you can spend on social media.

How to set boundaries and be happy in love

Pascale is a Therapeutic Relationship and Life Coach, the founder of the Surviving to Thriving group coaching program and author of How to be Happy in Life and Love: A guide to living the life you Deserve. See more at: www.youfulfilled.co.uk

Dating can be a wonderful thing and yet a complete minefield at the same time… Once we hit a certain age, things are so different for us. What we look for in a man, in terms of fun, commitment and family, are very different to how we looked at it in our 20s and early 30s. Being able to look after ourselves both physically and emotionally is essential. Our resilience levels and boundaries are very different and because of that we need to be cautious in different ways.

Here are 5 ways to protect ourselves in all things love and dating.

Know your expectations 

We have different priorities when we’re older and deserve to be a little more fussy. We don’t have to be settling or compromising as we did when we were younger. Being prepared to know what you want, I think at our age, is perfectly fair and realistic. If somebody doesn’t make you feel good or makes you feel like you have to change parts of yourself in order to fit their standard, be comfortable to draw the line and say no. No compromises are necessary.

They get to choose too

If they decide that you don’t meet their requirements, that’s totally cool as well. It isn’t the end of the world and doesn’t mean that there aren’t other, better options for you around the corner. This isn’t meant to be a cheesy ‘there are plenty more fish in the sea’ gag, but more likely that, we all get to choose who is right for us and who is not so right for us. It’s not the end of the world, it just means that this isn’t your happy ever after ending (yet).

Trust can be a challenge

If you have been cheated on in the past, which statistically, a lot of women at our age have, don’t treat every man like a cheat. Cheating is unacceptable in any situation, but there are so many good men out there who wouldn’t dream of cheating on you. Unless you have very good reason to think otherwise, trust your partner to treat you well. If your spidey senses are telling you something different, question them and let your intuition guide you as to what’s going on. If you have been hurt before, you may be hypervigilant. Hypervigilance doesn’t mean they are doing you wrong, it just means that you are super wary of not getting hurt again.

Remember to have fun 

Dating and love are meant to be fun. It’s meant to be a happy affair that brings you joy. Don’t make it too serious. Don’t make it too heavy too quick and remember that even though it can at times be very scary, it can also be wonderful, so make sure you enjoy the ride. 

Go with your gut instinct 

Always. If something feels off, don’t push it down and ignore it. A woman instincts are usually spot-on, whatever the situation. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, wary or even scared, please act on those instincts. Just because there are a lot of great men out there, there are also some douches. If the relationship doesn’t feel fun and you don’t feel safe and special, it’s definitely time to move on.

How well do you mange boundaries? Comment below and let us know how you cope.

Got Imposter Syndrome? Here’s why Imposter Syndrome is hitting us hard!

The other day I was talking to a good friend about what bothered her most about being in her 40s now. I was met with two words that used to be my own nemesis: Imposter Syndrome. You will either know very well what these two words mean having struggled with it yourself, or will be thinking Lord woman what on earth are you on about!

In case you fall into the latter, let me break it down for you. Very Well Mind has the perfect explanation of Imposter Syndrome, and it goes something like this:

Imposter syndrome (IS) refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. While this definition is usually narrowly applied to intelligence and achievement, it has links to perfectionism and the social context.

To put it simply, imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling like a phony—you feel as though at any moment you are going to be found out as a fraud—like you don’t belong where you are, and you only got there through dumb luck. It can affect anyone no matter their social status, work background, skill level, or degree of expertise.

So how many of you now know what I’m talking about? Well, probably 6 in 10 of you, seeing as that’s how many women experience imposter syndrome at some stage of their lives. For years, I found myself looking over my shoulder, feeling like I was spinning the world’s greatest lie like I was going to be caught. I skulked around with this nagging feeling that I was not really who I said I was, or doing what I said I was. Even as I write those words, I realise just how completely bonkers that sounds, like I have a major personality disorder of some kind. Even after my career had taken me on TV and radio numerous times over, I had this horrid little voice in my head whispering at me, “you’re a fake!”. The thought alone makes me shudder!

So why is it so many of us women feel like a fraud and that we’ve somehow oversold ourselves when the reality is we’re shit hot and have totally earned it? And why can’t we stop comparing ourselves to others, constantly beating ourselves over the head with other people’s successes when we should in fact be celebrating our own? And more poignantly, why can all of this feel so much worse in our 40s when we should instead be reveling in the so-called confidence we should be enjoying in life and our careers by now?

Hold the phone caller! Because in this deep dive on Imposter Syndrome, we’ve lined up some of the most well-versed professionals on Imposter Syndrome to help us understand why we’ve fallen under the IS spell and how we can break it.

imposter syndrome

How do you know you have imposter syndrome?

Faye Cox, Mindset & Confidence Coach believes women in their 40’s are still experiencing Imposter Syndrome despite their success, as the sheer act of comparing ourselves to others tends to arise when we step out of our comfort zone.

The more successful we become the more we step into unknown territory which is where we feel uncomfortable and our self-doubt kicks in. Each time we do this, we have to re-adjust and use the techniques we’ve learnt to overcome it. More on that down below!

So is imposter syndrome just a female thing?

According to Intuitive Business Coach Sam Evans, it’s present in everyone, but women tend to suffer more, due to the emotional connection of their goals and dreams and the difference in upbringing between men and women.   

With the increase of female entrepreneurs online, it can be difficult to believe in yourself when you are constantly comparing yourself to other women causing disbelief that anything is possible for you.

Imposter Syndrome attacks the human psyche based on the programming of the subconscious mind which is where all your beliefs, and memories are stored.  Somewhere in your lifetime, you experienced a significant event that caused you to feel the way that you do which in affect triggers the feelings of inadequacy.

Does imposter syndrome becomes worse in your 40s? 

Unfortunately, Sarah Pittendrigh, Breakthrough Coach believes that Imposter syndrome can strike at any age, it can become particularly prevalent among women over forty. For many years, a woman’s focus has been on everyone and everything else; she’s the strong woman, the glue that keeps it all together and makes sure everyone else’s life is running smoothly. She supports her partner, she brings up her family, she nurtures her business – the focus is on everyone but her.

However, in her forties, a number of things can knock her off-kilter. Her children are growing up and she doesn’t need to be so hands-on. Her relationship with her partner may have changed over the years, whilst their energy shifted to their joint responsibilities and it can be challenging to bring the focus back to just the two of them.

When the time comes to refocus on your future, you can feel lost and lose sight of your direction and of your goals. The goals you had in your twenties may feel like a distant memory. It is when you lose this purpose and sense of self that Imposter Syndrome can set in.

This is echoed by Monika Mateja of Live Well Coaching who points to the fact that all of the above adds to insecurities and contributes to second-guessing ourselves. We doubt our abilities even if we have a successful career because there is so much going on in our life. In particular, in our 40s we begin to experience more health issues including unexplained weight gain and brain fog that can make us feel like we failed ourselves and this can contribute to low self-esteem and feeling like a fraud.

Does this sound familiar?

Jo Swann, a successful Director at a PR firm knows first hand that the Imposter Syndrom struggle is real, “As an ambitious high achiever I set up my business in my 20s and was full steam ahead, and built a successful business for 10 years working with large brands like banks and building societies and brands like Whistles and Yo! Sushi. No imposter syndrome there!

But then I had some personal circumstances that made me wake up and realise – just as I turned 40 that I wanted to change track. Practically burnt out with a young son I decided I wanted to use my skill in another way and put the soul back into my PR work – so I started to work with female entrepreneurs with a new business  – helping them use the power of PR to get their stories out there. Working locally I LOVED this but then came the introduction to the online world.

Oh my God – I freaked out and this is when my imposter syndrome hit. It was full of glamorous women rocking the online space, who looked so comfortable chatting on video, sharing their lives and successes (and I couldn’t even take a selfie). I was overwhelmed and didn’t see where I fit in despite having nearly 20 years PR experience and being networked to some of the most successful online entrepreneurs of the time, who readily accepted me into their circles.

It’s taken me two, nearly three years to find my true guts again and retrieve that ballsy 20-year-old as this new world spawned limiting beliefs, lack of self-worth and huge comparison-itus. This led to me playing small, undercharging and over-delivering until I finally took the bull by the horns, to tackle my blocks head-on and with the help of a fabulous coach I came out the other side. I now love helping other women fight the battle too, helping them use PR and the confidence it brings to fight their imposter off!”

imposter syndrome

Some tips for overcoming imposter syndrome…

So you’ve got Imposter Syndrome and it’s eating away at you one bitter little bite at a time. What to do? Follow these tips from Joanna Howes, Leadership and Performance Coach.

Women in their 40s still experience Imposter Syndrome as the inner work hasn’t been done to find out the reason why they have it in the first place.  Imposter syndrome doesn’t stop you from being successful, for some, it is actually a driver to prove themselves.  It can however stop you from owning, celebrating and being proud of what you have achieved, as you do not connect your success with how great you are. You do not stand in your true power and you can find yourself hiding from what you could be.

My top tips for overcoming Imposter Syndrome:

  1. You need to look inside yourself to get to know who you are. We are all born with self-leadership yet along the way, through school, parents, and friends we adopt roles to survive, to fit in and belong and these roles can squash our true self. When you find out which roles you’ve adopted you can then work to be back in charge of them, instead of them being in charge of you.
  2. Notice whether the thoughts you have about yourself are beliefs that are limiting you.  If you say ‘I’m not good enough’ is there any evidence to support this or is it a belief you have created or a story you have been telling yourself?
  3. Start affirmations in the morning. It took me a while to believe these affirmations work, and I can tell you after doing them myself they really do.  Look in the mirror and say ‘I am enough’, ‘I am worthy’ and ‘I belong’, and ‘I can handle whatever comes my way’. You can write your own but if you need something to get started with, these are powerful ones to use.

Are you currently struggling with Imposter Syndrome? Or perhaps you have beaten and moved on from crushing self-doubt and feeling like a fraud? Leave a comment below and follow us on Instagram here where we’ll be keeping the conversation going.

Picture credits:  Antonio DillardOlya KobrusevaAndrea Piacquadio, Thought Catalog  from Pexels 

Will meditation help me? Here’s why you need meditation in your life

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Have you often wondered “will meditation help me?”.

Well, let me break it down for you like this. Life before meditation, and quite frankly, I was completely crazy. From struggling with insomnia to unleashing seismic fits of rage on my partner, I felt like a terrible parent and human being wound like a tight coil ready to spring at any time. You name the inner demon, I was struggling with it.

I was on the road to 40 and beginning not to like myself very much. I had become so grossly reactionary to pretty much everything and especially when life wasn’t going according to plan – which let’s face it can feel like 99% of the time. I wondered “will meditation help me?”. I desperately hoped the answer would be yes.

I needed to mentally unplug and get away from it all, and six years ago booked myself onto a half day meditation workshop with Simon Hoten for beginners where I learnt the basics of meditation, how to meditate using a candle, moving meditation and more. I had always been nervous about the idea of meditation. Could I actually sit still and meditate when I couldn’t even handle a Savasana at the end of a yoga class without wanting to have a massive twitching fit? And even if I managed to do that, when on earth would I ever fit meditation into my daily life?

I left the workshop feeling deeply and sublimely relaxed. The best takeaway? The revelation that even just three minutes of meditation could help me. And armed with that knowledge that meditation didn’t require a large chunk of my time, I tentatively started my meditation practice, just before light’s out every evening.

Six years later, it’s still going strong. Sometimes it’s three minutes – sometimes it’s 15 minutes. Hey I’m not counting! But either way I am no longer asking “will meditation help me” because I know the answer is a resounding yes.

Will meditation help me? Here are the ways it has done good in my life

Meditation has so far improved my life by:

  • Easing my anxiety
  • Improving my overall mental health
  • Helping me sleep
  • Making me less reactionary
  • Increasing my self-awareness and self-control
  • Making me feel overall happier and more confident
  • Enhancing my productivity, creativity and efficiency

But don’t just take my word for it. Just google “How meditation changed my life” and you will find reams of pages dedicated to people saying the same. This – my friends – is no coincidence. Because meditation works.

Will meditation help you find your right mind?

Recently I discovered Finding my Right Mind: One Woman’s Experiment to put Meditation To The Test. The book follows Vanessa Potter’s journey – where one day she woke up to find herself blind and paralyzed. How absolutely petrifying! She was stunned to discover that it was meditating, not drugs, that saved her mind.

Convinced she had more to learn, she embarked on her own consciousness road trip, exploring the major schools of meditation, along with hypnotherapy and psychedelics. In order to objectively record her journey, Cambridge neuroscientists measured her brain activity, with their observations and results featured within the book. It’s a fantastic whistle-stop your of the different types of meditation out there, and it provides an unusually voyeuristic glimpse into how powerful meditating can be. So if you’re not yet convinced that meditation can help you find your right mind – or even how on earth it can – then I would suggest you read this book!

I loved how perfectly she summed up the impact meditation can have on your life in her conclusion:

“It’s taken effort and time, but meditating doesn’t have to be a straight jacket; ironically, it’s been freeing. I’ve learned to be responsible for myself – what I think, feel and do is up to me….I had to acknowledge the different versions of myself. The nice, patient self along with the grumpy, worried-about-my-kids self. Neither is better or worse.”

She continues, “Meditation doesn’t have an on-off switch. It’s not as simple as doing it or not doing it. Sitting still is only part of it. What happens after that then, twenty or thirty minutes is just as important.” It’s that last part that rings so true for me – it’s about how meditation eventually informs everything that you do in your life, and makes it better.

Help! I can’t sit still and quieten my thoughts for love nor money

I hear you! I also have a brain that behaves like it has been soaked in amphetamines for a week straight plus a back that screams “I hate you!” most of the time. But yet still, I am living proof that it is possible. If you are in the same camp, then you will want to know about Sitting Comfortably by Swami Saradananda – an internationally renowned yoga and meditation teacher who has inspired thousands of people to practise.

It is full of tips for those who are prone to getting distracted, finding sitting painful, lack of time and self-discipline. Read: everybody. Once you have read this there will be no more excuses. You will stop wondering hmmmm will meditation help me and dive in and finally find out for yourselves.

Swami notes, “The mind likes constant stimulation, so when you try to sit quietly during meditation, without giving your mind external entertainment, it may come up with resistance and excuses not to continue. Rather than viewing these as setbacks, it is useful to view them positively, as obstacles to be overcome and lessons to learn from. Below are some common mental and physical challenges of meditation and how to overcome them.”

Be in the moment

Memories of the past and daydreams of possible futures can often distract the mind. If these come up while you are trying to meditate, just bring your mind back to your point of focus – whether it is your breath, a mantra, a visualization, or whatever other technique you have chosen to use.

Avoid fault-finding and replaying thoughts

Try not to review the shortcomings of other people when you are sitting for meditation and also be careful not to get caught up in self-criticism. If you find your mind re-processing the events of the day during meditation, remind yourself to come back to your point of focus, whatever that may be.

Be fearless

You may uncover hidden fears during meditation that have been lurking within your subconscious mind. These can manifest in many forms: fear of death, disease, solitude, criticism, or even just facing yourself. All fear stands in the way of meditative progress, so develop the habit of observing them with detachment. You will find that many will dissipate of their own accord if, instead of allowing yourself to get caught up with them, you simply return your attention to your chosen point of meditation focus.

Avoid muscle cramps

You could take a walk before sitting to prevent cramps. Make sure that you are getting enough potassium in your diet – and maintaining a healthy potassium-magnesium-calcium balance. Consider eating more bananas, dried apricots, prunes and other fruits.

Feeling disorientated?

Sometimes you may feel that your body is whirling or moving in a spiral motion as you sit in meditation. This tends to be more common if you meditate with your eyes closed. If this happens, open your eyes for a moment to reorient yourself and then close them and restart your meditation practice.

Exercise for optimal energy

Doing some form of exercise prior to meditating – whether stretches, yoga poses, breathing exercises or even just going for a brisk walk – can help to energize you for it.

So if you still think that meditation is just sitting around and doing nothing then think again! Still wondering “will meditation help me”? Let’s put it this way – I would be willing to put my house on the line and answer your question with “yes it will!”. Well, go on then and give it a try. After all, you’ve got nothing to lose, apart from all those bad habits that meditation can help you get rid of :).

Photo by Shashi Ch on Unsplash

Worried about mental health? 5 steps to maintain a positive mindset

Worried about mental health? We are inundated with information on how to keep our physical bodies healthy. You feel fat so you eat healthier foods and exercise. Physically you see the difference. People start to say how much weight you’ve lost. You LOOK different. But mental health? Sadly there’s no window to our minds. Many people hide their true emotions, scared to show their ‘real’ selves incase others take umbridge.

Our minds need exercise. Our minds need rest and our minds need as much attention as our physical being.

Mental health awareness week

It’s mental health awareness week (10th-16th May 2021). This offers an opportunity to focus on assessing how we are ‘feeling’ and what we might need to change. Maintaining a positive mindset is more important than ever before. Given this past year during covid, we’ve constantly faced challenges and adversity head on.

Mental Health Matters

Kelly Mesut is a counsellor and psychotherapist, reiki practitioner, health & wellness business owner and trainee yoga teacher. She has pulled together a few key tips that she recommends to clients, family and friends.

These aren’t prescriptive tips, neither are they a cure for mental health conditions, but can help you care for your mental health every day.

Top Tip Number 1: Movement

Many people readily admit to ‘hating’ exercise which turns them off the idea that this could be beneficial, so the term ‘movement’ feels more accessible. 

Movement is anything that gets your body moving, doing something that you enjoy and makes you feel good. Kelly recommends a podcast with Kelly McGonigal PhD, a health psychologist and lecturer, in which she discusses her book, The Joy Of Movement. She talks about how movement is fundamental to being human and discusses its role in combatting mental ill-health.

Try to move your body in some way each day, if you’re goal oriented set a few goals to motivate you. If you’re not, just enjoy it and feel into it, be mindful of how movement makes you feel and monitor your mood before and after. Most of all, enjoy it! Don’t force yourself to do something you don’t like, indulge in an activity that you find fun, and bear in mind that just 10 minutes of walking has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health matters.

Top Tip Number 2: Healthy Diet

We’ve all heard the saying, ‘you are what you eat’. If your body isn’t receiving the nutrients it needs to function optimally, then how can we feel our best mentally and physically? It’s like filling a car with the wrong type of fuel. If our bodies are continually deprived of ‘real’ nutritious food, then sustainable good health is going to prove elusive. The perfect diet isn’t possible, we should enjoy our food and take pleasure in it, but be mindful that you’re giving your body and mind what it needs. You don’t need to say ‘no’ to the things you love, just include them as part of a healthy balanced diet.

Top Tip Number 3: Sleep 

Sleep and rest is really key to mental health. There’s a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Living with a mental health problem can affect how well you sleep, and poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health. So, it can be a bit of a negative cycle. Brain fog and a lack of clarity, feeling slow and sluggish, irritability, lacking in energy; it’s not fun. What can help is working out if an early night or a later rising time suits you better.

Sometimes it can be a matter of just consciously prioritising more sleep, but if you’re struggling to sleep, there are a number of things you can do that may help promote better sleep:

  • Start winding down a couple of hours before your planned bedtime, put screens away and start thinking about consciously slowing down.
  • Try to avoid TV etc in the bedroom so that you associate the room with sleep.
  • Make sure your bedroom is a nice temperature – so you don’t overheat or get too cold.
  • Try and go to bed at the same time each day so your body becomes used to a routine. 
  • Try reading before bed in another room to help your mind relax. Journalling before bed if you have things on your mind can be helpful to get thoughts out of your head. (a notepad by your bed can be helpful if you are woken by worries or an endless to-do list)
  • Sleep meditations. (there are so many meditation apps around to choose from)
  • Be aware of how foods and eating patterns such as caffeine, alcohol and eating late can affect your sleep and mental health.

Top Tip Number 4: Connect 

Connecting with someone you care about, someone who lifts you up, whether that’s in person, online or over the phone, is hugely important. ‘Connect’ is one of the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’. “There is strong evidence that indicates that feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to functioning well in the world.”

There’s also the saying that ‘we are the average of the five people we are around the most’. Surround yourself with the people who bring out the best in you, who make you laugh, who leave you feeling on top of the world. As we move through life and our social time is perhaps more constrained by our various responsibilities, use it wisely and surround yourself with those people who make you feel like the best version of yourself. Not for validation, for solidarity!

Top Tip Number 5: Give

‘Giving’ is another one of the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’. Individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy. Giving doesn’t have to mean money, it can be your time, your expertise, or your kindness. It could be donating to a cause dear to your heart, or it could be a genuine compliment to someone. There’s something lovely about giving to others with no agenda, about making a difference, large or small to someone else, it makes us feel good. If you’re thinking about someone else, it also helps shift the focus away from the self. Research shows that depression and anxiety are linked to a state of self-focus, but when helping others, you shift to a state of ‘other’ focus.

Mental Health Matters Bonus Tip: Do something that lights you up – everyday

This is a bonus tip! No matter how small, do something (positive) you love every day. When we do, we switch our energy and our state. Whether it’s listening to music you love, dancing around the kitchen, reading, meditating, yoga, running, a walk in nature (nature is the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week and its many beneficial effects on mental health are widely documented), a raucous phone call with your favourite person, painting, an episode of your fave TV show, just give yourself permission to fully ENJOY something at least once a day.

The above are not a cure for mental health conditions and you should always consult your GP first and foremost if you’re are struggling with your mental health. But these are a few strategies that can help to boost mental health. If you feel that you need to seek help, please do so. There is no shame, only strength, in admitting that you need to address something.

You are important, we are all important, and we all deserve to feel our best as much as possible. We’re human, our emotional states change all the time, but if you’re feeling persistently low and are continually struggling, please know that this is not fixed and can change.

Own yourself. Protect your mental health. Because mental health matters.