Turning Over A New Leaf
BY Louise Chunn | issue 15
One of the possible reasons for the rising levels of anxiety in the Western world is that we are all trying so very hard to be the best-ever version of ourselves. We want to look good, feel good, have great friends, wear new clothes, visit the best places (preferrably before anyone else has) – you know the drill, it’s a kind of 21st century mania. And fiddling with the filters on Instagram will only take you so far.
For some, the final destination is over the edge and into mental health problems. I run a site that finds the right therapist for your needs, so I am acutely aware of how people are struggling with their emotions. Fear of failure, lack of self-esteem, worries about relationships, work, health — it all adds up to anxiety, and sometimes depression.
September is a good time to make some sensible resolutions for your better health. Summer’s ending, it’s a metaphorical new school year and you can set yourself onto a new path. Personally I’ve always found autumn the time to sharpen the pencils of my mind, and sketch out the kind of life I want to be living, if everything else didn’t get in the way!
September is a good time to make some sensible resolutions for your better health.
Seeing a therapist can be a great part of that reboot. Many people find that what they thought was their problem is only a symptom of something more “stuck” in their lives. Without a trained, neutral practitioner it can be all but impossible to really dig down into your patterns of behaviour. For some of us though, what we want to deal with is simpler, and we may be better suited to short-term therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy. welldoing.org uses a questionnaire to help you work out who is the right therapy for you and your worries.
But if therapy isn’t on your agenda, here are some other ideas that could help you with turning that new leaf, and seeing —- without too much pressure — just what sort of person you are.
BE WITH PEOPLE YOU LIKE
Biological research shows that friendships release oxytocin, a hormone that reduces tension levels and produces a calming effect. But friends also bring the good times and help us recover from the bad. Women sometimes let friendships slide once they have partners; don’t let that happen, repair the broken bonds that you value.
Physically and mentally we all benefit from spending some time outside in natural surroundings. Don’t worry if it’s only a city park; tests on cortisol levels (that measure stress) have shown that they drop in natural environments compared to built up areas.
Physically and mentally we all benefit from spending some time outside in natural surroundings.
LEAVE YOUR PHONE AT HOME
It may be a wrench, but many people have found that going smartphone-free at various times can, after the initial panic, be useful. You might actually get more done, by having your thoughts and actions interrupted fewer times.
Summer’s just finishing, but how about booking your next holiday?
TAKE RESPONSIBILITIES SERIOUSLY, BUT MAKE TIME FOR FUN AND PLEASURE
Sometimes we become so overwhelmed by productivity and purpose, we forget that we need to enjoy life too. Yes, you want to fulfil your ambitions, but working too hard is exhausting and – for some – dangerous to your mental wellbeing. Summer’s just finishing, but how about booking your next holiday?
TRY SOMETHING NEW
Whether it’s reading a thriller when you usually read literary fiction, or riding a bike when you usually go to Zumba, change is a force for good. We become stale when we do the same thing, without real enthusiasm, too often.
DO SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE
This is not just because it will benefit them, but it will work a kind of magic on you too. Life looks different, more interesting and kind, with a little altruism thrown in.
DON’T EXPECT TO SCORE 100% IN EVERYTHING
It’s good to aim for the best, but holding ourselves too strictly to account about our lifestyles can be counter-productive. Talking about the wellness trend psychologist Dr Benjamin Voyer told The Times recently, “Wellness is something very aspirational, but something that one can never really grasp.”
So, you see, you don’t have to take on too much to turn over a new leaf. Good luck!
Louise Chunn is the founder of therapist platform welldoing.org. She is the former editor of Psychologies magazine.