I was a nurse. Nurses can be many things but one thing nurses all have in common is, folk tell us their stories.
Through the years people have told me their amazing stories, stories of incredible bravery and joy. Stories, of real pain and emotional turmoil. I always felt rather inadequate as a nurse, when faced with the emotional troubles. I could lend a friendly ear and perhaps a little something for their physical discomfort but that was about all.
I’m now a Hypnotherapist and Mindfulness teacher and have learnt that it’s not what happens to you, but how you respond to it that is important.
This little acronym might be helpful but, this is not a substitute for advice and treatment from your GP or mental health team. Some people need professional help and if you have any thoughts of real self -harm you must seek that help.
We start with the word HAPPY:-
• H is for Head
• A is for Activity
• P is for Posture
• P Is for Postcard
• Y is for Yoga
H is for Head.
This is important. All the stuff which makes you who you are, makes you feel happy, makes you feel sad, is in your head. Stuff will happen to you but, it is how you interpret that stuff that can let you get on with your day or go and hide in a corner.
So, getting to know your head and talking to it- not in a “I’m going round the bend” kind of way but, just having a conversation with the thoughts going on is useful. If you are like me, there is a constant conversation going on. Sometimes that conversation can be destructive.
Those people who have a voice telling them they are worthless or ugly or fat or stupid have a terribly destructive voice.
There is no reason to listen to this. Anything at all can be changed and will change so talk to your head and start giving the voice some nice things to say!!! If it’s still telling you bad stuff change the voice to that of a cartoon character and zone it out. Tell yourself you are wonderful and amazing even if you don’t believe it, because eventually you will. And that is the beginning of having your head on your side.
Imagine your mind is your biggest supporter and cheer leader so, no matter what is going on in your life, your mind always loves you, your mind always cares.
I leave this with a little song which comes from a TED lecture and you can sing it over and over to which ever tune you like.
Hey! I’m OK, I’ll be fine, just breathe.
A is for Activity
Activity, what does this mean?
It can mean exercise, and healthy bodies and minds need exercise but, also it can mean stuff you enjoy doing.
It can mean reading a book, writing a letter, blogging, playing games.
It can be living in the moment enjoying the little pleasures in life.
Severely depressed people shut down their activities, they don’t interact with their bodies, let alone other people. In them, the bad voice in the head has taken over and they are in a bubble.
To start with, just walking is good. Even in the rain – put on a coat and walk. If you can’t walk, open a window and watch, the birds, the trees, the sky, the stars.
So being active gets you out into the world and reminds us we are part of nature and humankind and that’s a pretty amazing thing.
P is for posture.
It has been known for a long time that a person’s posture or body language can tell you how they are. Remember going to school when you really didn’t want to, the hanging of the head, the dragging of the feet!
Recently though, it has been found that it also works the other way around. Your posture affects the way you feel.
An open posture will drop your cortisol (stress hormone) levels and make you feel better. Open arms like the footballers celebrating, makes you feel good. No wonder Usain Bolt beat everyone else. His special shooting the arrow pose made him feel good before he had even run the race.
So, we too can jump up and down, maybe in private before a big interview or when we are stressed too. The odd thing is that even if
you feel terrible this will still work, so arms out and open up to feeling better!
P is for postcards.
I will explain. The brain in all its wonder and brilliance has a bit of a flaw. It is easily distracted, and it is almost impossible to concentrate on two things at the same time. So, when anxious it really helps to distract your brain. It is important that the thing you are concentrating on takes a bit of thought, so imagining a series of postcards, say landmarks from around the world, in a specific order is a good choice. Thanks go to my hypnotherapy colleague John Joseph O Brian, regarding this.
It doesn’t have to be the leaning tower of Pisa or the Eiffel Tower, you could think of a series of football grounds or film stars. The ideal number is seven and they have to be in order. You need to imagine them as vividly as possible. You could also think of 7 songs if you find it difficult to visualize things. The trick is that you have to concentrate on each image or song for a good 10 seconds before you move on to the next one.
The anxiety will be lessened by quite a lot by the time you are on your 3rd round of remembering.
There are other types of distraction and also useful is a thing called EFT or tapping. Again, a rather complicated ritual which really works, I think, by distraction, but also has the useful side effect of incorporating both sides of the brain and most of the cranial nerves( western medicine), or the meridians ( eastern medicine).
Y is for Yoga
Y is for yoga, but I also include, prayer, meditation, mindfulness and self- hypnosis.
I believe these are very similar.
Again, looking inward and being relaxed and calm, learning to breathe deeply all helps to alleviate stress and anxiety.
Having a spiritual aspect to one’s life doesn’t necessarily mean you have to belong to a recognized religion, but a sense of being part of a bigger whole does, I think, bring a better perspective to people who are in some distress.
We are encouraged to exercise our bodies, but healthy exercise for the mind is also important. When calm and relaxed we can more easily see a problem and find a solution or perhaps gain the strength to cope if there isn’t one.
So, think HAPPY and as the great Dr Frasier Crane would say, I wish you good mental health.