By Ruth Williams, Psychologist and Managing Director at Department Store for the Mind
My favourite breathing technique is the 7-11 one. Try to breathe from your tummy and when you breathe out think of the air blowing out slowly through a small funnel held to your mouth. When you breathe in count for 7 and when you breathe out count for 11. More breathing out releases hormones that help your body to relax.
Take a walk
Walking releases the cortisol (stress hormone) from your body and increases your creativity by up to 60%. This makes it a great thing to do when you have a tricky problem to solve. Aim to walk with your phone tucked away and without headphones on for the biggest benefits. Connect walking with the next tip about noticing to enjoy your surroundings.
As you stroll or sit let distracting thought drift away and tune in to what your senses pick up one at a time. As you tune in aim to focus completely on that sense. If interrupting thoughts drift in just acknowledge them and let them fade away. What can you hear? What details can you see? What can you touch? What smells are around you? What tastes are in your mouth and the air?
As you notice things around you just observe the details without forming an opinion about whether you like it or not. Can you carry this on through your day? Try to hold back on forming judgements and spend a little longer just noticing the details in things.
Three good things
At the end of your day can you think of three things you feel grateful for. This can be as small as the yellow tones in a beautiful flower or as big as booking a holiday. Keeping a journal each day of these three things forms a great record to look back on in times of low mood or self-doubt.
Do the washing up
Involve yourself in a practical task like washing up. Just do this and nothing else. Notice the details through all your senses. If washing up, this might be the feeling of the warm water on your hands, the sounds of the bubbles quietly popping and the smell of the floral perfume from the washing up liquid. Notice how you feel when you immerse yourself in a single task.
Take control of your phone
Smart phones can eat into our time so quickly and often leave us feeling a bit inadequate when we see what everyone else appears to be doing and achieving that we are not. Can you switch off your notifications and choose when you look at your emails and social media rather than letting your phone be in control.
Make time for a chat
Feeling heard and understood by someone else is wonderful and healing. Take time each day to connect with someone. Again, phones away, try to deepen the way you listen and imagine the world from your friend’s perspective.
We gain greater happiness from giving to others than we do from buying things for ourselves. Selflessly giving to someone else can bring a wave of happiness and calm. It can be as small as an unexpected cup of tea for a busy colleague.
Take a moment each day to notice the things you like about yourself. Aim to focus your inner chatter more towards positive things about yourself and the events in your life than the negative. Try to focus on benefits rather than risks. Notice and share the positive things you see in others too.
Walking in the Rain by Dept. Store for the Mind is published by Aster, ￡12.99 (www.octopusbooks.co.uk and deptstoreforthemind.com) Photography by Libbi Pedder, Illustrations by Alexandra Ethell
Washing Up is Good for You by Dept. Store for the Mind is published by Aster, ￡12.99 (www.octopusbooks.co.uk and deptstoreforthemind.com) Photography by James Champion, Illustrations by Veronica Wood