Mental health has become one of the hottest topics worldwide in recent years. It’s no secret that the modern world is stressful, and how it operates invariably results in issues and problems that go unnoticed. For most, disconnecting from it to improve one’s mental health, even for a short while, might seem impossible. However, the good news is it is possible, and in this guide, Niamh McCarthy offers some ways to do it.
If you were to ask most people the question, “How are you?” the default answer, particularly in Britain, would be, “I’m fine; how are you?” it’s an automatic, almost subconscious response given by nearly everyone, even when it is far from the truth.
Talking about how you feel mentally is not something people in the UK, and likely most other countries, are inclined to do. Discussing mental health has long had a stigma attached to it, with millions still feeling embarrassed to even broach the subject.
Fortunately, many well-known academic minds such as Sam Harris, Iain McGilchrist, Andrew Huberman, and others are making it easier by discussing mental health, and technology and apps are helping to bring light to dark-filled minds.
Niamh McCarthy (right), the founder of the newly launched music-meets-meditation platform MINDFUL NATION, is a young woman who wants to add to the rapidly growing bank of knowledge on ways to improve people’s mental health.
Below, she shares some hints and tips on approaching the holiday season carefully and consciously so you can provide yourself with all the tools for self-care to carry yourself through the winter season and beyond.
Think New Thoughts and Turn On the Light in Your Mind
Up to 95% of daily thoughts are repetitive, of which 80% are negative. Taking control of your mind first thing in the morning moments after waking up can completely reframe your day and create new thought processes for a more positive outset.
Of the 5% of new thoughts you have in the day, ensure there are good ones. The most powerful way of doing this is by repeating an affirmation or set of new affirmations each morning.
These could be “Today is a good day”, “I’m healthy”, “I’m happy”, “I’m safe”. Turning the light on in your mind is a process that only takes a couple of minutes each day with the Affirmations playlist on the app.
Include a short meditation in your routine
Meditation is often thought of as something “if I only had time for”, but a meditation practice only needs to take three minutes during the day, as an individual practice or as part of a series throughout the day – one in the morning, a pick-me-up in the afternoon and one before going to sleep.
MINDFUL NATION works on the philosophy that implementing a tiny lifestyle change will change your life. A suggested starting point is trying one of the Daily Meditations on the app that you can choose according to what feeling you want to bring in at that moment in time from a choice of Powerful, Calm, Grounded, Focused, Positive and Elevated.
Get Good Quality Sleep
As mammals, we crave hibernation during the winter months to rest and recuperate, copying the patterns of nature around us. However, the modern lifestyle makes this very hard to do.
One of the things that makes a massive difference to sleep patterns is minimising our exposure to the blue light from screens (television, computers, mobile phones).
The problem with blue light is that it tricks the body into thinking that it’s daytime and prevents the release of melatonin, the body’s natural sleep hormone, affecting our sleep patterns and natural circadian rhythm.
In the hour or two before going to bed, try to minimise all blue light and try a binaural beat sleep meditation before switching off your phone. Binaural beat technology is used in the Sleep Meditations section within the app and uses drones and deeply ambient sounds to encourage the body to subconsciously go into a calm and relaxed parasympathetic state, directly correlating with better sleep quality.
Release blocked energy in the body by implementing gentle movement each day to encourage deep breathing and a feeling of overall well-being. Walk and breathe in fresh air during the daylight hours to feel connected to the natural rhythm of the winter days.
Try yoga to get the body moving and increase energy and vitality in your life while also reducing stress and helping sleep.
Essential oils are an age-old alternative wellness practice to encourage connection to the present moment, with each essential oil having its own distinctive benefits. Lavender can help promote relaxation and sleep by rubbing it onto the soles of the feet, putting it into an air diffuser or spritzing it onto a pillow.
Eucalyptus is another fantastic oil for the winter months and has been used by Australian Aborigines in Australia for fevers and healing wounds. Try it for clearing stuffy noses and alleviating colds by placing a couple of drops in hot water and inhaling it with a towel over your head or trying a few drops in a hot bath.
Essential oils used in harmony with a meditation practice by rubbing a few drops onto your chest help connect you to your breath and are a powerful way of improving your practice.
“Prioritising well-being and peacefulness during the holiday season can often fall to the bottom of the list of things to do. It has never been more important to prioritise self-care to show up each day and find the ways of being the best versions of ourselves and shine that light to all those who cross our paths,” says Niamh.
Download MINDFUL NATION HERE and use the code LIVENATION23 for complimentary access. This app is currently available only on the App Store for iPhone, with an Android version available in January 2024.
You can read more about wellness and meditation in our health section here.