I was moved to do the podcast this week on health because I have, over the years, been working in some buildings that are hospitals, care homes or respite that do not feel healthy. We have a local hospital that is made of concrete and each time I go in it I wonder how anyone could ever get better it there because it feel so heavy. Ed and were talking about different environments and the effects that they might have on our health. But ‘sick building’ syndrome, as it is known does not only effect the physical body it also effects the emotional self. We know that when people feel good their immune system is more robust and their ability to get better is enhanced. I am left wondering how much of what we call anxiety and depression might be more environmental than we realise.
After all in a world where at least 60% of people suffer anxiety, 45% report being stressed and 45 million working days are lost each year to stress and anxiety we just might consider doing something about it. If some of this is environmental is it necessary to reach for medication or can we learn to moderate our wellbeing and health in other ways.
It would be good if we could get out of the building that we work in more but sadly this is seldom the case. In many ways we are stuck. So what can we do to lift our mood and try to bolster our immune system?
It has to start here and now because in the now, in the moment, there is no depression, no anxiety and nothing to worry about. If we can let go of what was and not worry about what will be we might feel a whole size happier. The suggestion below could enhance your ability to be in the moment not in a depressive past or an anxious future. They are all also a way of increasing the happy endorphins in your brain, which also has the effect of keeping you younger for longer and building your immune defences.
Use the time that you do have in non stressful ways.
How long does it take you to get to work? On that journey are you living in the present being relaxed and easy with yourself or are you winding up for a difficult day? How about you use that time to listen to music, an audio book or, if you are on public transport, actually read a book. Or maybe you takes Ed’s advise and get on a bike.
We know that just 10 minutes a day of focussed mindful quiet time can change your life. It is the practiced application of living in the present. The ten minutes begins to seep into the rest of your day calming and relaxing your life.
Relaxing pastimes and hobbies
Painting a picture, cooking a meal, knitting a jumper, the list becomes endless. When you focus on a project, whatever it is, your ability to worry becomes diminished as you focus into the moment. What have you done for you in the last week to make you feel good? If the answer is nothing then it is time to change and begin to look after yourself.
Doing good things for others
Doing things that make other people happy has the magic effect of making you feel better and increasing the happy endorphins in your brain. It might just be making someone a cup of coffee or helping an older person carry their shopping, a good turn to others is a good turn for yourself.
Leave work at work
In occupational health we talk a lot about work life balance. The evening review, in the mindfulness toolkit, (free on the site) stops the negative issues of work spilling over into home life. End you work day positively and leave the stress of work at work.
If you raise your heart rate for as little as twenty minutes your brain will respond by releasing a wave of happy hormones. It doesn’t need to be a gym, a short run or a brisk walk will do the trick. It will also keep your musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems in order.
Not for everyone but having a pet, usually a cat or a dog is a fabulous way to reduce anxiety and stress. Having another being to look after can create a meaningful sense of purpose and help with depression. The act of stroking or petting can reduce blood pressure and calm your system and the added need to walk your dog can help with your physical exercise as well.
Nobody wants anything and nobody needs anything
Taking time out just for you. Sometime that is all about you. What you need and what you want to do. It could be a hobby, could be a Zumba class or a bath with candles and music. When did you last do something just for you?
Stress is in the eye of the beholder
The psychological concept is that “thoughts become things”, “the things that you think about you bring about” means that what you focus on will get ever bigger in your conscious awareness, “what you feed grows and what you starve dies”. In neuropsychology we know that for most of us the ability to be happy or depressed, stressed or relaxed, anxious or calm, is a choice. We choose what we focus on every moment of everyday. If we feed good thoughts we have good experiences and if we feed bad thoughts we have negative experiences. It is our choice.
Make your choices today ones of calm relaxed happiness.