Is your life an emotionally healthy one?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Sarah Jeffrey-Gray MA (Cantab) HG.Dip.P. MHGI
1st February, 2009
Even some simple changes in our everyday life and routine can make a profound difference to our mood and emotional resilience. Taking care to do more things that boost serotonin and endorphins, our natural feelgood chemicals, will promote better and more stable mood and help us cope better in difficult times. In contrast, doing things that produce stress hormones undermine mood and prevent us from getting the best from life.
Here are some top tips for promoting better and more stable mood and resilience:
Relaxation: a person can't feel anxious (or depressed) and relaxed at the same time, so learning ways of relaxing physically and mentally helps to increase feelings of calm, confidence and security. Harnessing our innate powers of imagination to rehearse positive changes in our life is one of the most effective ways of improving our lives. Guided imagery is an excellent way of doing this and this is a skill which I teach many of my clients whether they want to overcome anxiety, depression, phobias, unwanted habits or behaviours - it is a skill well worth learning not least because of the compelling vision of the future which it helps to build in our subconscious minds, freeing us from old unhelpful subconscious patterns of behaviour
Physical exercise: this is particularly good for promoting the production of our natural feelgood chemicals. It doesn’t need a gut-busting session at the gym. Even 30 minutes walk a day will help
Healthy and regular nutrition: there is a significant connection between food and mood, especially keeping blood sugar levels stable - what's more alcohol, coffee and smoking all increase stress levels
Good sleep routine: sleep has two stages - slow wave sleep which restores and repairs us physically and dream sleep which de-stresses us emotionally - so, a good sleep routine rejuvenates us both physically and emotionally
Challenging negative thoughts and black and white thinking styles - we are at our best when we stand back and observe ourselves and our lives objectively and fairly. We need to use our innate skills to calm ourselves in stressful conditions better to see things in full perspective and avoid the distortion which high levels of emotion produces. Because what we focus on is what we get, it is best to focus on what is positive for us and to build positive expectations. We can only realistically expect to change something where we have a genuine influence over the outcome and we need to develop a healthy and robust approach to what can't be changed. Dwelling on problems and worrying without effective problem-solving skills is one of the greatest producer of stress hormones. Worrying guzzles our natural feelgood chemicals and this often results in disturbed sleep.
It is important to use (or improve) our priority, time management, communication, problem-solving and assertiveness skills effectively - some or all of these skills can be at risk if we are suffering from really high levels of emotion. We can learn too to be more compassionate with ourselves and take care to value ourselves and our core standards.
Drawing on a wide variety of things to meet your needs: family, partner, friends, work, social life, leisure, anything else which gives you a sense of meaning or purpose, receiving and giving enough attention, having enough privacy, having a sense of achievement in at least one part of your life, having at least one person who accepts you warts and all. Relying predominantly on too few sources for meeting these needs and/or not investing sufficient time in enough of these needs is generally not healthy.
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