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7 Ways to Become More Mindful in Your Everyday Life

Mindfulness is defined by the dictionary as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without judgement. 

In today’s fast-paced world, getting many things done in the shortest time possible is seen as a benchmark of success. Slowing down and staying focused on the present is seen as unproductive and a waste of time. But practicing mindfulness has been scientifically proven to have benefits. These include:

Improved overall well-being: Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, it helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with challenging events. By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are able to form deeper connections with others.

Improved physical health. Mindfulness can help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and alleviate digestive difficulties.

Improved mental health. Psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an important element in the treatment of a number of problems, including: depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, couples’ conflicts, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

How to practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is not about sitting cross-legged and meditating for hours; rather, it’s making a deliberate attempt to focus on your present thoughts, feelings, and activities. This means you can practice mindful living in your everyday activities. Here are 7 ways:

  1. Mindful eating

Mindless eating occurs when you simply go through the motions of putting food in your mouth and your thoughts are somewhere else – i.e. on the tv show in front of you, on the newsfeeds of your social media accounts, or on the difficult emotions that you are trying to comfort through food. When you eat without focus, it can contribute to physical problems like overeating and consuming too much salt or sugar.

Mindful eating is simply pay attention to what you are eating. Really see what is on your plate, so that you can check if you are eating a balanced meal. Junk foods should be taken in moderation, if not kept to a minimum. Don’t gobble everything in one go; chew the food slowly to make it easier for your stomach to digest it. Savor the tastes. Notice when you are getting full so that you can stop. When you become more intentional about what you’re eating, you’ll be better equipped to focus on fueling your body with the nutrition it needs.

  1. Mindful listening. 

When someone is talking to you, give him your full attention. Look at him in the eye instead of doing work, chores, or scrolling through your phone. Accord your companion the respect that you would also like to receive. 

  1. Mindful communication.

When you talk to someone, think before responding, especially if the subject is contentious. Don’t interrupt — wait until they finish talking before responding. 

Do not lash out in anger, as it can make the situation worse. Pay attention to how you are feeling, then see if you can give your opinions calmly and rationally.

  1. Engage in day-to-day activities mindfully.

Do you ever have trouble recalling whether you’ve brushed your teeth already before going to bed? Or do you sometimes forget why you walked into a certain room? Those are signs that you have a lot of things going on in your mind and you aren’t being mindful. The best way to focus on the present is to tune in to the physical sensations of the activity at hand, becoming fully aware of everything you do, and not thinking about anything else.

So if you are brushing your teeth, savor the feel of the warm water in your mouth, of the bristles going around your teeth, or of the minty fresh flavor of the toothpaste. If you are about to go into a room to get something, think about what the object looks like and how it will feel to grasp it in your hands. Don’t think about doing other things if you have not yet completed the task that you originally set out to do.

  1. Take pauses throughout the day

If you are having a busy day and are moving from one task to the next, it can be difficult to stay mindful. When this happens, try taking mini-breaks throughout the day to practice a few basic mindfulness exercises, like:

  • Focusing on your breath – inhale deeply through your nose, then exhale through the nose as well. The length of your inhales and exhales should be the same. Count your breaths; continue breathing in and out in an even manner until you reach one hundred.
  • Gentle stretches – chair yoga can be done without having to leave your desk, and it only takes 15 minutes 
  • Progressive muscle relaxation — work on tensing and relaxing your muscles, one muscle group at a time. With practice, you’ll learn to recognize when you’re tensing up certain parts of your body.
  1. Do one thing at a time

Many people equate multi-tasking with being productive, but the truth is when your brain is madly shifting from one activity to the next, it is losing attention and not retaining as much information as it should – so it ends up being very unproductive! The next time you are tempted to do more than one thing at the same time, bring your focus to the task that is more important. Put your phone on silent mode or log out of your social media accounts so that you will not be tempted to check every notification that pops up; set a timer for the amount of time you need to work, and it is only when time is up that you can move on to doing something else. 

  1. Accepting yourself

Lastly, the best way to stay focused on the present is to focus on yourself. This means perceiving your experience and simply acknowledging it rather than judging it as good or bad. For example, when you feel pain, whether it’s physical, (such as a painful shoulder) or mental (like depression or anxiety) don’t wallow in despair or blame yourself or others. Simply acknowledge what happened, learn what mistakes were made so you don’t repeat it in the future, then focus on things in the present that can make you happy.

Mindfulness is a “practice” because no one will get it when they first start, and no one can claim that they are living mindfully 100% of the time. It is human nature for the mind to wander and be distracted. But just keep trying and be patient; the goal is not to live mindfully all the time, but to do so more often than not. When you begin to focus on the present, you can start enjoying benefits like decreased stress, improved relationships (with others and with yourself), and greater overall happiness. 

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Mental Health 101 Self Help

How to Handle Negative Emotions

Inhale fully, exhale completely. And other things you can do when you feel overwhelmed with negative emotions.

Problems are part and parcel of our everyday lives, and no matter how much we avoid them there will always be instances when these problems will lead to negative emotions like stress, grief, anger, jealousy, sadness, etc. While it is perfectly normal to feel bad (in the right context), long lasting bouts of negative emotions are not healthy. So what should you do when the bad feelings start to become overwhelming? Here are some coping strategies that you can do:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings

Never ignore your emotions – pretending that everything is all right will not make the problems go away, and at some point all the bad feelings will negatively impact your physical and mental health. 

  1. Identify the triggers

Instead, of dwelling on the emotions themselves, think about what is causing them; negative emotions are your body’s way of telling you that something in your life is not working, so feeling angry or frustrated is a signal that something needs to change.  

  1. Change what you can

Once you know what is triggering the negative emotions, start finding ways to change or manage them so that you will not feel bad as frequently. Examples include reducing stress at work, cutting ties with people whom you find toxic, or seeking therapy to help with relationship issues. 

  1. Find healthy outlets

If you really cannot avoid the stressors in your life, look for ways to “release” the negative emotions so they don’t stay “stuck” inside you. Exercising is a good way to get more happy hormones into your body, while meditation will help you stay grounded and not get carried away by your emotions. Making time for fun and laughter is also a good way to relieve stress and change your perspective about matters. 

Negative emotions are a part of life and make us human. Instead of pushing them aside, we should acknowledge them and try to understand what they are telling us, because it is only then that we can take steps to living happier and healthier lives. 

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Featured Mental Health 101 Self Help

7 Celebrities That Have Opened Up About Their Mental Health Struggles

You are not alone. Be inspired by the personal stories of these public figures and #BreakTheStigma

Even though the understanding of mental health and its impacts have increased over the years, harmful stereotypes about mental health conditions still abound and deter people from seeking help when needed. Thankfully, more and more famous people are beginning to open up about their struggles with depression, anxiety, postpartum depression, eating disorders, addiction, and other mental health concerns. In doing so, they are helping to break down the stigma, encourage discussions, and inspire others to seek treatment.  

Below are some celebrities who have publicly shared their mental health difficulties in the media:

  1. Prince Harry

Prince Harry was 12 years old when his mother died, but it was only much later when he was 28 years old that he decided to seek professional help to address his grief. He revealed in a 2017 interview that in those two decades, he shut down all his emotions, felt very close to a complete breakdown, and experienced anxiety during royal engagements. 

“I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well,” he admitted. “I thought that thinking of her was only going to make me sad and not going to bring her back. So from an emotional side, I was, like, ‘Right, don’t ever let your emotions be part of anything.’”

In 2016, he started the Heads Together charity with his brother Prince William and sister-in-law Kate Middleton. Heads Together combines a campaign to tackle stigma and change the conversation on mental health with fundraising for a series of innovative new mental health services.

“The experience that I have is that once you start talking about it, you suddenly realize that actually, you’re part of quite a big club.”

  1. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

The Rock is one of the busiest, richest, and most recognizable actors in the world, but his private life is also full of struggles and low points. In a 2014 interview, he reveals that he has experienced three bouts of major depression in his life – the first was when his promising football career was cut short due to injuries; the second was when he broke up with a long-time girlfriend, and the third occurred when he got divorced from this first wife. 

“I found that, with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone. You’re not the first to go through it; you’re not going to be the last to go through it … I wish I had someone at that time who could just pull me aside and [say], ‘Hey, it’s gonna be OK. It’ll be OK… Hold on to that fundamental quality of faith. Have faith that on the other side of your pain is something good.”

  1. Demi Lovato

The singer is an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness. In 2017, she produced “Beyond Silence”, a documentary that showcases the lives of three people who live with anxiety and depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia (respectively). In the same year, she released “Simply Complicated” on YouTube, which chronicled her life and career, including her struggles with addiction, bipolar disorder, and bulimia, and her time spent in rehab.

“It’s very important we create conversations, we take away the stigma, and that we stand up for ourselves if we’re dealing with the symptoms of a mental illness,” Lovato said. “It is possible to live well and thrive with a mental illness.”

  1. Chris Evans

He may look strong and confident as Captain America, but in real life Chris is an intensely private person who experiences social anxiety during red carpet appearances, comparing them to “walking on hot coals.” In addition, he also suffers from what he calls a “noisy brain” which makes him second-guess everything and “turn casual conversations into whirlpools of self-doubt.” He has tried calming his mind through meditation, Buddhism, and by reading the books of spiritualist Eckhart Tolle.

“I’ve gotten better,” Evans says. But he still struggles sometimes with overanalyzing things, with letting his self-consciousness take over, with not just being present in the moment.

  1. Ryan Reynolds

In a 2018 interview, the 41-year-old actor shared that he has suffered from anxiety since his 20s. He turned to partying, and even self-medicating, to feel better but says he stopped taking drugs when several friends died from overdoses. 

Red carpet appearances would give him stomachaches, and he had so much anxiety over taking on the role of Deadpool (he was worried about letting fans down) that it began to affect his sleep. He credits his wife, actress Blake Lively,  as well as meditation apps like Headspace for calming his nerves.

“I have three older brothers,” he said. “Our father was tough. He wasn’t easy on anyone. And he wasn’t easy on himself. I think the anxiety might have started there, trying to find ways to control others by trying to control myself. At the time, I never recognized that. I was just a twitchy kid.” 

  1. Lady Gaga

The singer was sexually assaulted when she was 19 years old, and developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of not being able to fully process the traumatic event. “I did not have anyone help me, I did not have a therapist, I did not have a psychiatrist, I did not have a doctor help me through it,” she said. “I all of a sudden became a star and was traveling the world going from hotel room to garage to limo to stage, and I never dealt with it.” When she began to experience intense chronic body pain, she went to see a doctor and found out that the pain may have been triggered by the trauma and psychological stress of her rape.  

Today, Lady Gaga is a staunch advocate for mental health issues, as well as LGBT rights. In 2011, she and her mother founded the Born This Way Foundation as a means of prioritizing the mental health and wellness of young people by working to promote kindness and open and honest conversations about mental health, validating the emotions of young people, and eradicating the stigma around mental health.

“Medicine really helped me. A lot of people are afraid of medicine for their brains to help them. I really want to erase the stigma around this,” she said.

  1. Sophie Turner

The actress became a household name when she starred in Game of Thrones at the age of 13, but the fame took its toll on her mental health. Scathing comments left on social media about her weight and appearance left her with body image issues and depression for years. Thanks to therapy and the support of her husband, Sophie is now better but admits to still having mental health issues from time to time. 

“I had no motivation to do anything or go out. Even with my best friends; I wouldn’t want to see them; I wouldn’t want to go out and eat with them.”

MINDNATION IS HERE

Need a friend to speak to? Feel free to message our Facebook Page for 24/7 Social Conversations with friends that are available for you anytime. We’re here to listen! It’s completely free and absolutely confidential. http://facebook.com/themindnation

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Self Help

7 Throwback Songs to Lighten Your Spirits

Ah, the magic of music!

Music therapy has proven to have great benefits for several mental health conditions, including depression, trauma, and schizophrenia. Music is a good medium for processing emotions, trauma, and grief — and can also be used as a calming tool for anxiety or dysregulation.

A method called lyric analysis is one of the most commonly used music therapy interventions with those struggling with mental health. It is a less intimidating approach involving deeply understanding and analyzing lyrics to better process and describe emotions that are otherwise hard to explain. Uplifting music is also used to motivate listeners to apply its positive message to their obstacles in life! Here are some throwback songs you can try analyzing to lighten your spirits if you’re feeling down:

1. “Unwell” by Matchbox Twenty

Memorable lines: “I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell… I’m just a little impaired”

Why you should listen: There’s no reason to feel that no one will ever understand what you are going through. The lyrics perfectly describe what anyone with a mental illness is going through, so if you need something to make you feel less alone, this song is it.

Listen to “Unwell” by Matchbox Twenty on Spotify

2. “Shake it out” by Florence + The Machine

Memorable lines: “And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back; so shake him off!”

Why you should listen: Many people with mental illness hide their issues because they feel they have conform to societal norms or avoid stigma. But bottling up your feelings can lead to worse consequences in the future. Instead, try to find healthy outlets to express yourself.

Listen to “Shake it out” by Florence + The Machine on Spotify

3. “Let it be” by The Beatles

Memorable lines: “There will be an answer, let it be!”

Why you should listen: Life goes on and that change is a part of that life. So when everything seems hopeless, remember that nothing lasts forever. Instead of worrying over the future, just focus on what you can be grateful for today.

Listen to “Let it Be” by The Beatles on Spotify

4. “Titanium” by David Guetta ft. Sia

Memorable lines: You shoot me down but I won’t fall, I am titanium”

Why you should listen: When the going gets tough, it’s your mental strength that will get you through it. Cultivate habits that build positivity and resiliency so you can manage difficult situations better.

Listen to “Titanium” by David Guetta ft. Sia on Spotify

5. “Flashlight” by Jessie J

Memorable lines: “I’m stuck in the dark but you’re my flashlight / You’re getting me, getting me through the night”

Why you should listen: No one can battle a mental illness alone. Do not be afraid to ask for help, surround yourself with supportive people, and avoid those who only add toxicity to your life.

Listen to “Flashlight” by Jessie J on Spotify

6. “Wounds” by Kid Cudi

Memorable lines: “When you cannot find the version of yourself you seek /
You should dig deep / I’ma sew these wounds myself”

Why you should listen: Wounds is a great song for people fighting depression. In the song, we hear questions why we doesn’t feel “whole”, but it’s also talks about acceptance and learning to heal.

Listen to “Wounds” by Kid Cudi on Spotify

7. “Firework” by Katy Perry

Memorable lines: “Cause baby you’re a firework / Come on show ’em what you’re worth / Make ’em go “Oh, oh, oh!” / As you shoot across the sky-y-y”

Why you should listen: You can be an inspiration to others, even if you are struggling with mental illness. By sharing your story, you can encourage others to open up about their own issues and in the process seek support or treatment, thereby easing the loneliness and despair that they are most likely feeling.

Listen to “Firework” by Katy Perry on Spotify

Listening to music has been proven to help regulate emotions, improve mood, and create happiness and relaxation in everyday life. Do yourself a favor and plug on the earphones a few hours a day. Your mind will thank you for it!

Written by Jacq of MindNation

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Mental Health 101 Self Help

Making meaningful connections in the time of social distancing

While having alone time is a great way to recharge, extended periods of isolation can be detrimental to your health. In the past, many of us may have felt lonely from time to time. These feelings are usually short-term and don’t usually harm our mental health. However, the longer the quarantine goes on, these feelings turn long-term and can be associated with increased risk of mental health problems including depression, anxiety, and increased stress.

While it is imperative that everyone isolate at home during this time, social isolation or social distancing does not mean that we no longer have opportunities to connect with those we love. Thanks to technology and social media, there are many unique ways we can maintain ties and strengthen relationships while respecting social distancing rules. Here are some ways:

Create online gatherings to celebrate special occasions. If you typically celebrate birthdays by eating out as a group, you can still do that in the virtual world. Download video conferencing apps like Zoom or RingCentral, then spread the word that everyone has to be online at a specified time with their own meals at the ready. When everyone has logged on, dine together! And even if there are no occasions to celebrate, it will still be fun to make video chats with friends and family a regular thing.

Make new rituals. Miss your teachers and classmates at the yoga studio or the Zumba class? Has Sunday mass been part of your weekly ritual? You can still do all these through social media tools like Facebook Live or Instagram Stories. Muster up the discipline/motivation to make worship or working out part of your lockdown routine, as if it were the pre-pandemic days, just so you still have a semblance of connection and normalcy.

Tired of video calls? Try playlist collaborations or watch parties. Sure, video calls can get quite tiring. We can connect with those we love by sharing music and flicks we’ve been hooked on. (It’s also a great way to find new songs and titles to love!) Spotify has a feature where you and your friends can collaborate on Playlists, and Netflix Parties enable you to watch new movies or series simultaneously with cool chat features!

Help however you can. If you are in a position to give assistance to those who are in seemingly tougher situations (i.e. senior citizens living alone, front liners), you can do so safely, perhaps by having food delivered to them, or contributing money to fundraising activities. Volunteerism has been proven to have a positive effect on one’s emotional well-being, as well as make you feel that you are part of the community.

While it is for our absolute safety and the safety of those we love to keep physical distance, it does not translate to being emotionally distant as well. Now more than ever, we should find cooler and creative ways to show love and support especially to those who need it most!

MINDNATION IS HERE

Need a friend to speak to? Feel free to message our Facebook Page for 24/7 Social Conversations with friends that are available for you anytime. We’re here to listen! It’s completely free and absolutely confidential. http://facebook.com/themindnation

#EasetheAnxiety

Written by Jacq Chua of MindNation

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Mental Health 101 Self Help

5 ways meditation can improve your mental health

People used to think that meditation (or the process of training the mind to focus on the breath) was only something that monks, gurus, or hermits did in mountaintop temples or caves. But in recent years, practitioners of conventional medicine have also begun to prescribe mindful breathing techniques as a means of improving one’s mental health.

Here are 5 science-based benefits of meditation:

  • Reduces stress. When you focus your attention on your breath, you eliminate the jumbled and stress-inducing thoughts that are running around your head.
  • Controls anxiety. By focusing on your breathing, you are directing your mind to the safe present, instead of to an uncertain future.
  • Promotes emotional health. Meditation teaches us that we are like bystanders standing on the sidewalk, and that the cars passing by in front of us are our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Instead of forcing ourselves to run with the cars/emotions (which may cause stress, anxiety, and depression), we should simply acknowledge that they exist, then allow them to go by without making any judgements.
  • Lengthens attention span. Meditation is all about grounding and becoming aware of the “now”. The practice trains your brain to focus instead of wander.
  • Can make you more empathic. When you are calmer and less anxious, you become less irritable and short-tempered. You also develop more positive thoughts and feelings about yourself.

Meditation is to the mind what exercise is to the body. If you want to give it a try but don’t know how to go about it, apps like Headspace and Calm are beginner-friendly places to start. Good luck and don’t forget to inhale, exhale!

Written by Jacq of MindNation

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Mental Health 101 Self Help

8 Ways To Eat Better While On Lockdown

As we approach Week I-Have-Lost-Count of the lockdown, many of us have been eating more canned, processed, or junk food than usual. Whether it’s to pass time or prepare meals quicker, this habit does no good for our bodies or our brains.

Yes, gut health has been scientifically proven to affect mental health as well. There have been many studies showing that people with poor diet exhibit more mood disorders, including anxiety and depression.

But how can you start eating healthy when you barely know how to turn on the stove, or when access to your healthier food supply is limited? Here are some easy suggestions to kickstart your road to better eating:

1. Eat more fruits.

Switch up your sweets with fruits! They satiate your palate with less harmful effects versus its refined, packaged counterparts.

2. Control portion sizes.

We’re not saying you should stop eating junk food – but instead of finishing the whole bag in one sitting, take it as a challenge to not chomp down until you’re full. Take a small serving for yourself, just enough to have a taste of that snack you love and save the rest for next time!

3. Drink more water.

Drinking enough water keeps our brain from having to struggle against the effects of dehydration, allowing us to think more clearly than if we let ourselves get dehydrated. For a refreshing boost, you can add slices of lemon, cucumber, or mint. If you must have juices, go for the unsweetened variants, and just add a bit of honey.

4. Switch to whole grains.

White rice is tasty but also highly processed. You can get more nutrients (and maybe feel a lot more full) from unpolished grains – black/red/brown rice. If you find their taste too bland, cook them in broth, add garlic or add pandan instead of just plain water.

5. Try a meatless diet once a week

A balanced meatless diet is that it is full of “superfoods” like berries and nuts that are known to be beneficial for mental functioning. Vegetarians, in cross-sectional and interventional studies, showed fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and mood disturbance than omnivores. Grilled cheese sandwiches, mashed potatoes, and mushroom soup are examples of meatless meals that are delicious but also easy to make.

6. Make yogurt a kitchen staple.

Yogurt is rich in probiotics (friendly gut bacteria) and have been proven to positively affect mental health directly. Purchase the plain/unsweetened variants, and just add fruits or honey for some healthy sweetness.

7. Set up a meal schedule.

Eating whenever you feel like it will just lead to mindless snacking. Instead, follow an eating schedule as if it were a regular workday, so that you become more aware and in control of your consumption.

8. Rearrange your pantry.

Out of sight is out of mind, so keep the sweets and junk food in hard-to-reach places like the topmost rack. Then put the healthier snack alternatives at eye level.

With just a few modifications, you are on your way to locking down a healthier quarantine diet. Bon appetit!