Nature Cure

I have stolen the title of this blog from the author Richard Mabey, who wrote his book of the same name after his recovery from clinical depression, describing how his absorption with nature helped him begin to turn the tide of his debilitating illness.  The reviews of his book are mixed – some people loved his descriptions of re-connection with the natural world, whilst others said it simplified depression and recovery.  However, one thing is clear different things work for different people and psychologists know of research that shows  connecting with nature, can release the “feel-good” hormones and chemicals, such as dopamine, which protects against depression. Let’s spread the knowledge around, you never know who might benefit! 

It has also recently been proven that smelling and looking at certain plants lowers blood pressure, so really, whatever connection we can find with nature surely has to be for the good. 

There are new buzz words for this connection which you may have heard of: “Awe Walks” and “Forest Bathing”.  Don’t be put off by either title – they are simply ways of trying to explain to an increasingly sterile and insulated society how to appreciate and gain from the natural world. 

I don’t have to remind you that we are now in another lockdown and some of you might feel that it is impossible at this present time to have that connection – after all, you are now asked to stay at home and only go out for essentials, work or exercise.  Great if you have a garden, or live in a rural area so are able to step straight out into open countryside, but what happens if you live in a town or city?  How can you connect with nature – and anyway, what do we mean by it? 

Regardless of where you live, nature is never far away.  If you live in a city, there will be a park within walking distance, or a river.  If you’ve been flooded it may all look like mud rather than grass but get your wellies on and go and look for signs of spring. You’ll be surprised by what you’ll see you what you might see whilst walking alongside a city riverbank; someone posted a photograph of an otter swimming, while a friend of mine saw kingfishers nesting in the overflow pipes above the river in a rather run-down area of Sheffield last year.  London parks are a haven for birds and all cities have various birds roosting on their buildings and trees.  A project in Edinburgh would normally have bird watching walks as part of their mental health schemes. Or if you have a garden, put up a few bird feeders and watch the different species swooping in to feed – Pleasure comes from tiny things. To get the mental benefit you have to consciously stop to notice things, so set an alarm on your phone so when it rings, it becomes your reminder to look out the window, go for a walk, or simply check how your houseplants are doing. 

Use your ears – As the day is beginning to lengthen again birdsong is more noticeable – try tuning in to the soundscape in your locality, it may be more interesting than you realise.  

Among the easiest of plants to grow from seed in pots are Nasturtiums, Calendula, (Pot Marigold) and Rocket. It’s something you can do in your own time, or if you have young children maybe they can ‘help’! You can start them indoors and plant out once frosts are over, or simply plant outside later as the weather warms.  Nasturtium leaves and Rocket can be picked and eaten straight from the plant and provide a bit of vitamin C – rich zing to any day, while Marigold leaves have a soothing aroma.  The flowers of all three can also be added to cooking. 

Plants attract all kinds of interesting and beneficial insects, such as bumble bees and hoverflies.   There is a real satisfaction in growing things from seed (plus it’s more economical) and there are many more kinds of edible or aromatic plants that are not difficult to get going.  Have a browse online.  Seeds are easily delivered by post, too.  

If you are home-schooling at present, get a routine in place that your children go outside at the end of their day.  Young children will benefit by letting off steam – you can even help their education by giving them a good old-fashioned nature walk!  Even a walk along urban streets can be educational – you can point out the different buildings, look at the different trees growing over neighbouring walls, look at the history and geography around you.  It may surprise you what you see when you take time to look.  Equally, try to encourage older children / teenagers to go out with you too – they need something to relieve the intensity of online learning.  

Anyone suffering from anxiety and depression may think, that this blog simplifies the depth and seriousness of these conditions – it’s not meant to, it is meant as suggestions to give a little light relief and to offer stepping stones of ways to improve your day – a stone which you can securely build upon to help you and others. 

Click here for more information on Richard Mabey’s book: Nature Cure: Mabey, Richard: 9780099531821: Books 

If you feel you would benefit from some professional help, please contact us. We’re working online; for a confidential chat on how we can help longer term, call Adriana directly on +447890 667103 or our office 01625 786026. Email [email protected] 

Tiny tips for living a fuller, happier life! 

Loneliness at Christmas

It is thought amongst the general public that suicide rates rise around Christmas time, however, statistics show this is not necessarily the case. Having lost a friend this way some years ago, it was hard not to think that the time of year played a part, but actually, his decision just happened to coincide with Christmas, as we later found out. His issues were complex and deeply embedded and whilst he could possibly have been helped, it seemed he had reached a point where he didn’t want to be. However, it is known that people do get depressed and lonely at Christmas, and whilst it may not lead them down the route our friend took, it can make for a miserable time. 

It may not be the obvious person who is struggling with Christmas. We often think of older people who are left on their own, but it could be a newly separated younger person, someone who has been on their own for a number of years and has reached a point where they find their resilience waning, or even a teenager who feels their family no longer understands them. Of course, that single person may not be lonely and be quite enjoying the time alone, but in contrast, the person with the big happy family may be the one who actually might need support – how do we really know? An elderly, seemingly happily-married couple may have age-related issues, leaving one half as the carer, so what you see on the surface may not be the whole story. Loneliness can strike anyone at anytime. This year it is likely that a number of people who would normally visit their families might not be able to do so, either because of the government rules, or because they chose not to take the risk. 

What can we do to help? 

Well, it is difficult if visits are not allowed, but if you do know of someone who is on their own, make sure you keep an eye out for them. Send them a Christmas card and perhaps write a special message in it – telling them that they can call you if they want a chat. Let it be known by whatever means, you are available to talk at any time. Or, you could just ring them at random. 

If it is allowable, try and tempt them out for a walk, or invite them for a cup of tea – something simple to break up the long hours over the festive period may be just the boost they need. 

If your friend or relative lives locally to you, you could take them some mince pies or home-made goodies – leave them on the doorstep if you aren’t able to mix with them – or, share them on the yard outside; better still, take some mulled wine to share that way – if you are outside, it will help to keep you warm! 

Some of these things may feel awkward as we are used to being in our own whirl at Christmas and it is not always easy to make that first step, but take a moment to think how it would feel to have that visit, phone call or message if you were in the same boat as someone whom you suspect is finding it tough at the moment. It is not a long-term solution, but could help to lift a lonely person’s spirit. 

What if you dread Christmas? 

If you are one of those people who really don’t like Christmas because it seems like everyone else is having a good time and you are not, it can be so hard to get through this time of year. 

The most important thing is not to dwell on it. A boat can be surrounded by water, but it will not sink unless water gets in…be that watertight boat and surround yourself with things that are important to you. It may seem hard, but it will help these days be less difficult. Give some structure to your day and set yourself 5 things to achieve on a daily basis. 

If you have a particular hobby and are still able to partake in it, don’t stop just because it is Christmas. Immerse yourself in what you normally find interesting. 

Put your favourite music on, watch your favourite film or treat yourself to a good book. In fact, treat yourself to something you’d really enjoy but wouldn’t normally buy – a new item of clothing, some expensive chocolates, new food items or that nice bottle of wine you have always fancied but thought too extravagant. 

If the weather is reasonable, make yourself go outside. Walking is a great way of relieving stress and lifting the spirits. You don’t have to go far, but the fresh air will help. Be kind to yourself and remember it is Winter, so plan carefully if you do decide on a longer walk than normal. If you have a garden, maybe it’s time to go and chop down the dead branches and rake those leaves. Any physical activity will release endorphins to make you feel better. 

Do you know anyone else who might also be lonely? Is there another single person close by (or someone you can phone) who you think might benefit from one of the things we have mentioned above? This could not only help you realise that you are not alone in your loneliness, but be of mutual benefit to you both. 

Meditation is also a wonderful self-help tool. You don’t have to tie your legs into impossible yoga positions or think this is anything complicated. It is the exact opposite – just set aside some time in the day when you know you won’t be disturbed and spend 20 minutes sitting comfortably, concentrate on breathing deeply and try to empty your mind. Don’t panic if you find it hard to stop your mind wandering, just simply bring it back to concentrating on your breathing and you will soon get used to it. 

There are a lot of easy tips online to get your started, (and of course, some more in-depth websites), but for a simple relaxation technique, just do the basics. 

One really helpful basic guide is by author Matthew Johnstone. There is a link to a youtube video and to his book below. If you would rather have a paper copy, the book “Quiet the Mind” is widely available.

If you want to “quiet the mind” in a different way – watching birds in the garden is wonderfully meditative. I discovered this whilst doing “The Big Garden Birdwatch” each year in January – it is so relaxing that it is hard to stop after the designated hour. However, you don’t have to partake in this event to benefit, just put out some feeders (it may be up a day or two before the birds discover them) then spend as long as you like watching the different species arrive. 

Finally, if things really do get too much for you this Christmas, remember the Samaritans are there 24 hours a day 365 days per year – their free phone number is : 116 123 

If you are struggling with isolation or loneliness, we can help too. We’re working online; for a confidential chat on how we can help longer term, call Adriana directly on +447890 667103 or our office 01625 786026. Email [email protected]. 

Live Life Not Strife. 

Tiny tips for living a fuller, happier life! 

BE POSITIVE – We’ve got your back

We’re dealing with many different challenges as we face a possible second wave, so let’s brace ourselves for what comes next! 

The problems we’ve already faced have been tough! However, you can pat yourself on the back for what you’ve achieved. There’s a lot of debate about what seems to make to sense and what doesn’t. We’re not here to get into that debate, we’re just going to offer you some tips, to help you in your day to day life. 

We know now we’re in this for the long haul, there’s no getting away from it, so how do we keep ourselves positive throughout these difficult times for ourselves and our families?  

The frequent changes to the rules require us to alter our mindset and daily routines with each new announcement, and to put in place any number of alternative arrangements; for our work, the way we shop, the way we socialise, the way we take our children to school. 

Let’s review coping strategies that help us respond in a fluid and adaptable way. We are constantly on our guard for the next local lockdown or indeed stricter, national measures. This can lead us to feeling stressed, anxious, upset, irritated or emotional. 

What you’re feeling is completely normal and hundreds of thousands of us are experiencing the same emotions. 

Given our many years’ experience of helping people through anxiety we want to help you understand what’s happening in your mind and give you some practical strategies to use on a daily basis that will help you feel in control. 

Anxiety needn’t look like you’re sitting in a corner shaking – in fact that’s more likely to be fear than anxiety. When we feel anxious, we can get irritated very quickly, not pay attention to what somebody is saying, not feel able to concentrate very well, we can have delicate stomachs, feel on edge, not be able to fall asleep because of thoughts whirling around your mind or you could find yourself waking up and find it difficult to get back to sleep again.  

You may find it hard to relax, hard to sit and read a book, you might not be able to follow a storyline when you’re watching TV, you may find yourself snapping at others. Again, all these things can show you when the mind is in a different place, it’s natural to feel anxious when things feel out of control. 

Let’s break it down and really get back to basics. We fundamentally need 5 things: clean air, water, food, sleep and shelter. If we focus on these things primarily and how we can improve on them in our daily lives by making small changes then we will not only feel as if we are surviving but thriving. 

Clean air – Throw your windows open, even if it’s chilly outside. Clean air will refresh the room, making you feel invigorated as it reduces the number of allergens in your home and will help anybody who has allergies. 

Spend a couple of minutes breathing in the fresh air. We have talked about the benefits of breathing exercises many times before, but it is a quick and easy way of learning to relax and one that we advise many of our clients to do. 

Click here for more information:

Water – OK so not all of us enjoy drinking plain water, but let’s talk about increasing our hydration to help us feel enlivened and restore our bodies natural balance. Did you know our bodies are made up of at least 70% water? The Eatwell Guide says that we should drink 6-8 glasses of fluid a day – if you really don’t like drinking water, start by adding one glass of water a day, add sliced lemon or cucumber, mint whatever you like or if you can, buy a water filter. Then see if you can increase it! If you drink a lot of sugary drinks, consider swapping 50% per day to something without sugar. We can easily become addicted to sugar and it’s really not good for us!

Food – Do you get your 5 a day? Your answer might be does anyone? Did you know that optimum health requires you to eat 10 a day? 

There are some easy ways you can up your quota by making some swaps into your daily life.  

  • A smoothie with breakfast. 
  • Mid-morning go for a piece of fruit or carrot sticks. 
  • A glass of fresh juice with lunch. 
  • Go for a meat-free dinner at least once a week, not only will you be increasing your vitamin intake; you’ll feel good in the knowledge that you are helping to reduce your carbon footprint! It can be quicker and easier than you might think – many ‘no-fuss easy vegetarian’ recipes are available for free on the internet. Or anyone can make a salad! 

Sleep – The reality is that we might all benefit from more sleep. Many different factors affect our sleep patterns: shift work, noisy neighbours, stress/anxiety related issues. However, there are ways which you can improve your chances of sleeping well. These include creating a calm and quiet bedroom, evening routines, not drinking caffeine after lunch and not looking at a bright screen at least an hour before you go to bed which all aid a restful night’s sleep. This is what we call sleep hygiene. Click here for more information:

Shelter – Our homes are our sanctuary but when we have to be in them more often than not, you can start to feel as if you’re getting cabin-fever! 

What can you do to give your home a little TLC which in turn will enrich your happiness and relaxation?  

  • De-cluttering can help to achieve a calmer environment. If you have too much ‘stuff’ around you it can cause you to feel stressed out without you realising. It may overwhelm your senses which leads you to feeling as if you can’t concentrate. Clear an area of your living room or bedroom, even if it’s solely clearing the coffee table! You will feel as if you can think more clearly, start today! 
  • Give everyone in the family their own tasks to help keep the house tidy, if everyone buys into helping each other out, it creates more family harmony and you will all feel more organised! 

If your circumstances change, don’t put your head in the sand, go and see if you can get a mortgage holiday or if renting, find out what your rights are during this period.

Be Thankful! 

Many of us are lucky to have the lifestyles we do and although we may not have the extra leisure/social activities as we did previously. Let’s take stock and be thankful for what we have. 

Being thankful is another way you can increase your level of happiness in easy steps. For instance, take a moment before you go to bed to think of 3 things you can be thankful for from your day: it could be that you enjoyed a healthy lunch, or you had a quick kick about with kids in the garden or simply that you got chance to listen to a podcast! 

If you’re finding things difficult and would like to feel happier in your life, we can help. 

Live Life Not Strife 
We’re available for remote consultations, for a confidential chat on how we can help 
you contact us on 01625 786026/+447980 667103 or email [email protected] 

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Tiny tips towards living a fuller happier life!