7 reasons why 30 days of Yoga enhances your lifestyle by Meera Watts

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You are probably fully aware of how beneficial yoga is for your mind and body. When you commit to it for 30 days, you will really begin to feel those benefits.

A practice like this is known as sadhana in Sanskrit, which means “dedicated practice.” You will definitely become more flexible and release tension on a daily basis.

The benefits go much deeper than this though. All aspects of your life will improve. You will mentally feel better about yourself just for the effort of getting on the mat every day. When you feel good about yourself and take action for your own self-care, life will get better for it.

Here are 7 reasons why 30 days of yoga will enhance your lifestyle.

1. You are More Able to Relax

When you’re able to relax, you can enjoy little moments in life far better. Yoga has been proven to reduce levels of cortisol by relaxing the central nervous system. Poses, or asanas, in yoga, will help relax all the tension in your body. You begin to regulate your heartbeat when you do yoga daily. This helps you to deal with stress far better as well.

If you have problems with sleeping because your mind won’t shut down, yoga can be beneficial for this as well. Chronic insomniacs have been able to break the cycle of sleepless nights from starting a daily yoga regime.

It helps to calm the mind and body. You might even want to do a few relaxing poses before going to bed.

2. You Feel Better About Yourself

It’s easier on your body to do yoga for 30 days straight as opposed to weight training or other intense exercises. It might be hard at first but the progress you make in the practice will improve how you feel about yourself.

Whatever your reasons are for going through a 30-day yoga practice, you will get a sense of purpose. This sense of purpose will make you feel good about yourself. Being dedicated to something and sticking to it can create a habit of commitment within you. You will have a greater sense of trust in yourself as well.

It starts with 30 days of yoga but you’ll likely move onto do more yoga or other types of physical activity. Doing something active daily is good for the mind and the body. Once you get into the habit, you’ll always want to improve.

3. Your Body Will Become Stronger

Although yoga wouldn’t be considered a direct way to lose weight, it actually can. You don’t burn a lot of calories but you do gain more muscle. Muscle eats fat so it is an indirect way to improve the body.

Doing yoga for a while 30 days will help your metabolism so you’ll burn fat more easily. Your weight will normalize through yoga because it restores hormonal imbalances. You also become more mentally stable when something arises and you feel stressed.

You’ll hopefully be able to manage the ebbs and flows of life because you’re more centered.

4. Better Posture

As you’ll be doing yoga for 30 days straight, you’ll be able to properly counteract bad posture. This will be a noticeable improvement.

As you stand in Mountain Pose, you’ll be pulling your shoulders back which will probably feel uncomfortable for a few days. As you continue with your practice, you’ll notice that it’s easier to stand with your shoulders back.

You’ll be focusing on your posture and how your body is functioning, which will help you focus on it while you’re off the mat. Many of the poses stretch out the areas of the shoulders and back that are compromised from slouching.

5. Mindfulness Makes You More Conscious

You may not realise all of the things in your life that you’re grateful for. Most of us just live every day and don’t really think about we have. We think about what we don’t have, what we want, and other things.

Mindfulness is a large part of the full yoga picture. It is where we let go of the ego mind, which is that inner chatter you’re hearing all the time. When you’re present in the moment of now, there can be no depressive or anxious upsets.

This allows you to open up to what is happening for you right now. When you’re more conscious, it’s easy to appreciate moments, you are more easily grateful for what you have. You become happier and more at peace.

Also, you’re not missing out on your life. It’s unravelling in front of you and you are there with it. The conscious thought brings a great deal of fulfillment into your life while eradicating self-critical, worrying thoughts.

6. You’ll Become Better at Breathing

Breathing is important for the health of your physical and mental state. When you get anxious, you will experience a shallow breath. This makes you feel more anxious. If you can learn how to breathe deeply into your lungs, you can calm yourself down instantly.

During yoga, you will probably feel very relaxed so you can safely hone those deep breathing skills. Then in times when you need it, you will be able to automatically breathe into your belly.

7. You’ll Be Able to Focus Better

Yoga sends a lot of oxygen to the brain, which helps to promote mental functioning. In addition, the lack of anxiety allows you to think more clearly. This can help you in your work life with productivity or in running a household.

When you’ve completed your 30 days of yoga, you will know that your life has changed. You have trained the mind and body to work in the most optimal way. You will see the benefits that manifest into your outside life and how it enhances the lifestyle you’re living. You’ll be fit and feel generally happier. Yoga can teach us a lot and you will understand this when you commit to the practice.

Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur, and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes, and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga.

Website:  https://www.siddhiyoga.com/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/siddhiyogaacademy

Instagram: https://instagram.com/siddhiyogainternational

Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/siddhiyogainter

Twitter: https://twitter.com/meerawatts

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/meerawatts

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/siddhiyogateachertraining

 

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Can Animals and Pet Therapy help our Mental Health? Guest post by Dawn Prime

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(image: http://www.usatherapydogs.org/)

Can animals help our mental health? Approximately one in four people in England will experience a mental health issue each year (YouGOV). Every mental health issue is individual, and every situation is different; this can be shown in many forms including stress, anxiety and depression. Living with a mental health condition can affect many aspects of our daily life, with many describing it to be a lonely and isolating experience, whilst others withdraw from social interaction.

So, can animals help with mental health? In my experience they certainly can, and the therapeutic power of pets has been well documented. I believe that this is done in a number of ways, from improving mood, to calming down and giving a sense of purpose.

Whether it’s dogs, cats, rabbits or fish – each animal has a way to help and offer great companionship to those experiencing and overcoming mental health.

Mental health benefits associated with pets include:

* Decreased anxiety

* Reduced loneliness

* A known sense of comfort and safety

* A greater improvement of self-esteem and confidence

* Help in depression

At the best of times a pet can be a great source of comfort, companionship and motivation, and in many ways they can help us all to live mentally healthier lives.

Caring for a pet gives our day a purpose and reward, similar to that sense of achievement in say, looking after a child. For example, owning a pet – especially a dog – means you will need to go for walks, which can often lead to conversations with other dog owners along the way, so simply put, it’s helping someone with mental health stay connected and less withdrawn in a social circle. Social anxiety can be a major hurdle to overcome but by having a dog, you have a ready-made conversation, as dog owners like to talk to other owners about their dogs!

Pets can also give owner’s incentive to remain calm – most pets are generally cute or cuddly and have the ‘awww’ factor, however our pets’ mood, at times, can very much reflect our own, so if we feel sad, our pet could be too.

Commanding and teaching our pet brings confidence and reassurance, and in time this will naturally train our own brains to let go of any negative stress. Unlike people, pets won’t judge your illness, so many people find it therapeutic to talk to animals as they listen – remember they are non-judgmental, and who knows they might just understand!

We can take stroking our pet as something we sub-consciously do whilst we watch the TV or read a newspaper, but did you know that stroking a pet can, at the same time, stop our minds drifting into negative thoughts.

Our mind releases feel good endorphins, so can make us feel better and calmer. The simple act of stroking a pet is also well known to lower blood pressure, as well as reducing physical and emotional stress.

Therapy animals also have a valuable role to play; often in a professional setting they provide comfort, support and can help to engage people. Therapy animals are trained to help people with mental health conditions such as depression and provide a calming atmosphere – with a typical therapy session involving the therapist, the animal and their handler.

Therapy pets can include “dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, rats, miniature pigs, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys and mini-horses,” as long as they’re at least a year old and have lived with their owner for six months (Pet Partners).

Personally, I have known people whose anxiety has improved since having a pet. They find it very comforting in having some company which isn’t human, and someone they know who will love them unconditionally. It is re-assuring to know that they have a responsibility for looking after someone else that takes their mind off their own problems, whilst having a positive impact on their own well-being – helping them cope with everyday life.

Finally, it’s important to remember that every pet is different and it’s vital to be aware of the commitments they bring, for example a dog will need good walks at least twice a day and a horse will need to be ridden out. If you are not sure about taking on a pet but want the benefits that are associated with being around animals, then there are many local animal sanctuaries which would value a volunteer.

Animals can be wonderful creatures and really therapeutic for our mental health.

This article was written by animal nursing assistant, health advisor and writer Dawn Prime. 

A Guide to Mood Disorders: Guest blog By Ellie Willis

Mood disorders encompass many disorders of how you feel from day-to-day, whether that is abnormally elevated (mania) or depressed and in low mood. They can include depressive illness such as major depressive disorder, dysthymia, postnatal depression and the bipolar spectrum disorders. They also feature anxiety and panic disorders. These are often down to brain chemistry and sometimes environment.

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(image: Pinterest/ Healthyplace.com)

 

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depression is defined as a depressive illness where you experience a significantly lowered mood and a loss of interest in activities that you would normally enjoy. While it is normal to feel sadness and grief when your life significantly changes, such as when a loved one passes away, when it doesn’t go away or gets worse, it may evolve into major depression. Some of the symptoms of depression are:

• Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness • Feeling guilty over insignificant things • Withdrawing from family and friends • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs as a coping mechanism • Having problems with concentration • Being unproductive • Having a lack of confidence • Feeling irritated or frustrated • Having a lack of interest in sex.

While sometimes a depressive episode seems to come out of the blue, there are often things that can trigger them. These may include: Genetic risk factors • Alcohol or other substance abuse • Medical problems such as thyroid issues or chronic pain • Certain medications such as steroids • Sleeping problems • Stressful life events 

Studies have shown that there appears to be a genetic component to depression. That is, if one of your parents has a depressive illness, you may end up suffering from depression yourself.

Dysthymia is a chronic form of depression that occurs when you suffer from a mild to moderate depression for at least two years. Although dysthymia causes problems in everyday life, dysthymia is often not severe enough to warrant hospitalisation. The chronic nature of the disorder means that you may believe that you have always felt like this.

The good news is that there are a wide range of medications to treat major depressive disorder, such as antidepressants. There are many kinds of medications around, and you may have to try a few until you and your psychiatrist find the perfect one with little to no side effects.

As of the time of writing, the antidepressants most commonly used are SSRIs and SNRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). These refer to the types of neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that affect mood, among other things) that they affect.

With antidepressants, it is extremely important not to stop medication all at once, unless there are serious side effects and even then, only under medical advice. This is because of discontinuation syndrome. Simply put, this means that your body gets used to the medication being in your system (different to addiction where you crave the drug) and you experience symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and insomnia, to name a few.

Another important way to treat depression is psychotherapy in one form or another. This can help you by learning coping skills to deal with depressive thoughts and negative thinking, as well as having someone to speak to with complete privacy. There are a few other ways for you to combat depression in adjunct to medications or therapy.

These are: • Maintaining good sleeping habits • Exercising more • Seeking out activities that bring you pleasure • Being around caring and supportive people

Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression is a depressive illness where a new mother experiences depression in the first few months after giving birth to a child.

Some of the symptoms of postnatal depression include:

• Feeling sad or empty • Lowered self-esteem • Changing appetite (usually a decrease) • A loss of enjoyment in everyday activities • Changes in sleep patterns such as insomnia • Not being able to concentrate • Feeling cut off from the baby • A loss of interest in sex • Feeling ashamed, guilty or inadequate • Withdrawing from family and friends • Mood swings • Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby

There are a number of factors that make postnatal depression more likely. Some of these may include: • A history of depression, especially postnatal depression in the past • If the baby is sick or colicky • If you are in an abusive relationship • If you are suffering from stress • If you have little support from family and friends •

Treatment for postnatal depression is essentially similar to that for major depression, such as antidepressants and therapy and in some cases intervention from a psychiatrist or hospital team is required.

 

Bipolar Disorder Spectrum

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterised by periods of extreme mood states known as mania and depression. It is one of the most serious mental illnesses and is the sixth most disabling condition in the world at the time of writing. It is chronic and potentially life threatening. However, those with it can go on to recovery and live happy and fulfilled lives between episodes. 

According to some studies, one in fifty people may suffer from a form of bipolar disorder. In many cases, there is a family history.

Mania is one pole of bipolar disorder – an extremely elevated or depressed mood, sometimes accompanied by psychosis. You may have racing thoughts or speak so quickly it is difficult for others to understand. You may also have trouble getting to sleep at night or suffer from insomnia. There is a danger of reckless behaviour such as overspending, unsafe sexual activity or aggression. You may feel a sense of grandiosity, making unrealistic plans. Despite mania feeling great at the time, the consequences of mania can be destructive.

Some of the signs of depression include a lowered mood, self-esteem or interest in enjoyable activities, pessimism, reduced energy and changes in appetite. Suicidal thoughts are also possible and must be monitored closely. As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications to maintain your mood at a normal level.

Hypomania is the hallmark of bipolar II where the patient might feel euphoria or agitation. Hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes except they are less severe and sometimes pleasurable to you. There is never psychosis in a hypomanic episode. Despite hypomania increasing productivity, or making you feel increased self-esteem, the consequences can be major, especially as your mood goes down to depression.

A mixed state is a combination of manic and depressed symptoms. In a mixed state you may feel very sad or hopeless while feeling extremely energised. These can be dangerous, because of the suicide risk from being depressed as well as impulsive. If you feel you are heading into a mixed state, you should contact your psychiatrist as soon as possible.

Bipolar disorder type I is characterised by at least one episode of full-blown mania as well as depressive episodes. There is also a chance of psychosis (delusions/ hallucinations)  accompanying a manic episode. Bipolar type II features only hypomania and never mania or psychosis. While these manias are less destructive, the depression tends to be worse, and there is often a high suicide risk.

Cyclothymia is a bipolar spectrum disorder where you may have long periods of minor depression lasting at least two years alternating with hypomania. These depressive periods tend to be irritable and agitated rather than melancholic and lacking in energy.

Bipolar NOS (not otherwise specified) simply refers to bipolar disorders that do not strictly meet the criteria of any of the previously mentioned types of bipolar disorder.

The treatment of bipolar disorder involves medications such as Lithium carbonate, lamotrigine, sodium valporate, and quetiapine, as well as psychotherapy to help overcome negative thoughts that exacerbate depression or after effects of mania. 

As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications for life to maintain your mood at a normal level. Despite this, many patients continue to do well as long as they stay compliant with treatment and keep aware of their changing mood states.

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(image: MTVFORA: http://fora.mtv.ca/words-of-wisdom-celebrity-quotes-on-mental-wellness/)

 

Anxiety Disorders

The term anxiety disorder covers a wide range of illnesses from panic disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite the wide range of diseases, many share similar treatment options. There is a stigma affecting some anxiety disorders due to stereotypes in the media.

 

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

It is normal for people to feel some anxiety over normal life events such as exams, work problems or family issues. However, when it causes problems in your everyday life or is particularly severe you may have an anxiety disorder. Generalised anxiety disorder involves having irrational fears, such as being afraid harm will come to you or your loved ones, financial issues, health, relationships and work.

Physical symptoms when experiencing anxiety may include: • Light-headedness • Becoming tired easily, or being unable to sleep properly • Feeling tense or restless, or losing your temper easily • Nausea • Shortness of breath • Headaches • Trembling • Muscle tension Treatment generally involves medications or therapy.

Psychological treatments may involve: • Learning relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxing exercises or meditation • Therapy to teach you how to solve problems that cause anxiety with anxiety disorders, psychological treatments are generally more effective than medication, however it can still be useful.

The most common treatments are antidepressants or benzodiazepines such as alprazolam or diazepam. Generally, benzodiazepines shouldn’t be taken long-term, as there is a risk of becoming dependent on them.

Anxiety disorders are relatively common in the population, with statistics that approximately 25% of the people suffer some kind of anxiety disorder that may warrant treatment in their lifetime. Anxiety is treatable, and therapy or medication may minimise the effects on your life and relationships.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a mental health condition where you experience a feeling known as a panic attack recurrently.

Some of the symptoms of a panic attack include: • Shortness of breath • Dizziness or light-headedness • Tightness or pain in the chest • Trembling or shaking • Dry mouth • Muscle tension • Difficulty gathering thoughts or speaking • Tingling fingers or feet • A choking or smothering feeling • Hot or cold flushes • Nausea or butterflies • Blurred vision • Fear of dying, losing control or going mad

When you have panic disorder, you may also worry about the implications of a panic attack such as humiliation or feeling of going crazy.

You may try and flee from the situation hoping the panic attack will stop. Panic disorder is generally treated via therapeutic methods rather than medications. This may involve your doctor teaching you about panic disorder, for example, that a panic attack is distinguishable from other mental illnesses such as other anxiety disorders or psychosis – this is known as psycho education.

A therapist may instruct you not to avoid any situations where a panic attack may occur. This may be unpleasant at first, but slowly you will not feel anxious in the situation. This will help prevent agoraphobia and the disability it causes.

A common treatment for anxiety disorders is CBT – but there are many types too including exposure therapy and talking therapies. They can be incredibly helpful for you to overcome feelings of anxiety.

This guest blog was written by Ellie Willis, an expert in mental health.

 

On Selfie Day: Is social media bad for our health? Guest post by AXA PPP Healthcare

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(image: https://www.designweek.co.uk)

Today’s world is dominated by social media and it seems to be playing an ever increasing role in our lives.

Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services at AXA PPP healthcare acknowledges that social media can give young adults a certain perception of life, that isn’t always reality.

 “Social media is a window where people choose what they want to present to the world – whether this real or altered – and in many ways it can be a ‘false reality’.

 It’s natural for an onlooker to make assumptions about others based on what they see online, but often those who are vulnerable cannot make this distinction, which can have a negative affect both on their mental health and their body image.” comments Dr Winwood.

For some, being online is their main source of social interaction and, over time, this can turn out to be an isolating and lonely experience. And, whilst the ‘rewards’ of communicating online are instantaneous, this isn’t necessarily a good thing” he says.

Social media website Instagram has been rated as having the worst effects on teenagers’ sleep, body image and fear of missing out.

 Ultimately with four of the five most popular forms of social media found to be harming young people’s mental health, it is important for young adults to realise that there is a world outside of the screen.

In 2016, seven young people who switched off from social media told the Guardian about the positive results they experienced. One said “I can live my life instead of trying to shape it into one that looks good online. I also have a lot more time now, and it’s easy enough to keep in touch with my friends in other ways.

If you decide to have a social media holiday, here are Dr Winwood’s observations:

 Suspend your accounts – suspending them for a week means you can take a break without the temptation to check for any new notifications.

Make an effort to meet up with friends face to face – you may find that cutting down on your social media time leaves a temporary void, so arrange to see friends and family personally and you’ll feel in touch when you’re off-line.

Enjoy the gift of renewed focus – think of all the occasions when your attention was split between checking social media and having a conversation or watching TV or walking along and just tune in to the moment of what you’re doing without the distraction.

Get an alarm clock – using your phone as an alarm can make it tempting to automatically check the online scene the minute you’re getting up. Having a separate alarm clock removes that temptation from arm’s reach.

If you find you crave social media try checking out apps designed to block certain sites at certain times of the day. This approach helps avoid that mindless checking and re-checking we all fall victim too.

This guest post was written by AXA PPP Healthcare.  If you think you might be addicted to social media, find more tips and advice at AXA PPP healthcare’s Mental Health Centre or speak to one of its help at hand nurses online.

Guest Post: Interview with Dr Janina Scarlet, author of new book ‘Therapy Quest’

I have got to know Dr Janina Scarlet, psychologist as I have written more across the media. Janina writes about therapy and mental health in an approachable and meaningful way. She also loves superheroes and fantasy and incorporates them into her work!

This week for Mental Health Awareness Week, I spoke to her as she launches her  new book ‘Therapy Quest’.

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(image: The Book Publicist/ Dr Janina Scarlet)

 

What is your new book Therapy Quest about?

Therapy Quest is an interactive fantasy book in which YOU (the reader) are the main character. You are transported to a magical world of Here and are the Chosen One to stop an evil sorceress, Mallena, from destroying the world. Only you don’t feel like a hero. Not at all. Your anxieties and insecurities nearly lead you to abandon your quest altogether. However, if you decide to partner up with some new friends, such as a vampire with an eating disorder, and an Ogre who struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, you just might be able to become a hero after all.

The book is written in a game-like format, which allows you to make choices along the way. Each choice you make will change the rest of your journey and can either allow you to earn or lose points. Some choices can kill your friends or your character, so you have to be careful.

Each time you make a choice, you will also learn a mental health skill, and you will need all the skills you can learn along the way to help you in your final battle.

What was your inspiration for writing it?

I knew I wanted to write a fantasy book with self-help elements in it, in which the reader could learn these skills through the characters they were reading about. My editor, Andrew McAleer, had the brilliant idea of having a similar format to “Choose Your Own Adventure” fighting fantasy books. This sounded like a very interesting challenge to me, and I am extremely honoured to have been able to work on it.

Could you explain a bit about what Superhero Therapy is and how it works in the book?

Superhero Therapy refers to incorporating elements of popular culture, such as fantasy and science fiction books, movies, TV shows, as well as video games, comic books (Superhero or otherwise) into evidence-based (research-supported) therapy to help clients to become their own version of a superhero in real life (IRL).

In Therapy Quest, the reader is the Chosen One, the Hero of their own journey even if they question their ability to do so. Through learning skills such as mindfulness, self-compassion, acceptance, and following their own core values, the readers are invited to take their own superhero journey and develop their own superhero skills, which can be utilized in their every day life as well.

Who could you recommend the book to?

I would recommend this book to anyone age 12 and up who might enjoy fantasy books and would like to learn skills to manage depression, anxiety, trauma, or other mental health struggles.

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Dr Janina Scarlet is a clinical psychologist and the author of Therapy Quest, a revolutionary self-help book which combines therapy with an interactive fantasy quest.

Guest Post: Making the Climb: 4 Tricks to begin the fight against Drug Addiction by Kara Masterson

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It all started at a party you attended a few months ago. You were feeling down after the big break up, and you just wanted to feel good again. Someone at the party offered you some pills, and they made you feel better than you had felt in a long time. Before you knew it, you were a regular user. At first the confidence and the euphoria were too irresistible to pass up.

Once hooked, you always knew how to get ahold of your drug of choice. It was always just a phone call away. Unfortunately, one thing lead to another and now the pills are not having the same effect they used to provide you with. In fact, you need more to get the same feelings, but coming down has been much more difficult on you than you ever imagined it could be. In a particular low moment, you started to think that it might be time to fight your drug addiction, but where do you begin?

Admitting Your Problem

As with most problems, fighting a drug addiction begins with admitting to yourself that you definitely have a problem with drugs. If you are not committed to this being the truth, then you will find it is difficult to see a commitment to overcome the addiction through to the end. When you are certain that you want to give up your addiction and will do anything to make that a reality, then you are ready to take the journey necessary to reclaim your life back from drug addiction.

Disassociate from Your Connection

As long as you can call someone to enable you to continue in an addiction, you will be driven by the addiction to do so. To fight and overcome a drug addiction, you must break all ties with the people who enable you. By making this commitment, you are getting rid of the source of your addictive behavior.

Build a Support Network

To give yourself the best chance at overcoming addiction, you need to identify the people you can trust that have your best interests in mind to confide in about your drug addiction. This could be friends, family members or even someone like a pastor or teacher.

The important thing is that you gather people around you who love you and are willing to help you see your recovery all the way through. Sure, some of these people may be disappointed to learn about your addiction at first, but ultimately those who have your best interests in mind will want to help you reclaim your life and will be there for you in times of weakness.

Get Professional Help

The next step in your treatment is to locate and visit a rehab facility that can help you to get clean from drugs. Detoxing from narcotic substances can sometimes be a difficult path to walk down, but it is best dealt with by working with professionals like Kick Recovery Coaching or someone similar who have helped countless people through this process. They will not only be able to help you know what to expect, but they can provide you with ways to get through the detox phase that are rooted in the latest drug addiction treatment options.

The road ahead may not be an easy one, but it is definitely better than not seeking any help at all. The simple reality is that drugs ruin lives, but you do not have to be a statistic or a willing victim. By taking up the fight to reclaim your life from a drug addiction, you will come out the other end of this journey a much stronger person for it.

Kara Masterson is a freelance writer based in the USA.

Guest Post: How and Why Sport Can Help Your Mental Health- Sara Whitehouse at Stadia Sports

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Mental health has become a strongly discussed topic in today’s world and rightly so. With more and more people vocalising their struggles with mental health, it’s the perfect time to make sure you’re looking after yours.

 

The How and Why of Mental Health

You’ll be pleased to know, that when indulging in physical activity, you’re bringing a whole array of benefits to your body – many of which you may not have realised.

1. Reduces Depression, Anxiety and Stress

Although there’s growing awareness that exercise helps to improve depression, anxiety and stress, it’s still not a dominant reason why people choose to be active. In many cases, people tend to turn to medication and other remedies to treat their stresses, not realising how great a gentle run or yoga session can be too.

Depression

Studies show that exercise can be used to treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication. It is important though to speak with a Doctor and find out the best plan for you.

Reasons why exercise helps fight depression:

  • Promotes changes in the brain including neural growth, reduced inflammation and promotes feelings of calm and well-being.
  • Releases endorphins that energise you, making you feel happy and positive.
  • It acts as a distraction from depressed thoughts and gives you opportunities to socialise and meet new people, all of which help to boost spirits.

Anxiety

Exercise is known to help with anxiety. Through fully-focusing on your fitness sessions you can tune your body to be mindful about your exercise, receiving more health benefits.

Reasons why exercise helps fight anxiety:

  • By concentrating on the sensations that happen during exercise, you can interrupt the flow of worries in your mind and improve physical condition quicker. For example, you can workout to the beat or rhythm of the music or focus on the sensation of your feet hitting the ground.
  • Relieves tension and stress through performing stretches that loosen tight muscles.
  • Boosts physical and mental energy through the release of endorphins.

 

Stress

When you are stressed more often than not, your body tenses up. Your muscles begin to tighten particularly in your face, neck and chest area, which can lead to headaches, chest pains, a pounding pulse and muscle cramps. Experiencing these stress-related symptoms can lead to you worrying more which brings on a whole array of other symptoms. These include heartburn, insomnia, and stomachache. The more pains you get, the more stressed you become and sadly, you’re found battling a vicious cycle between your mind and body.

 

Reasons why exercise helps fight stress:

  • Exercise helps to break the cycle of worrying by mixing up your routine.
  • Releases endorphins in the brain that help the muscles to relax and relieve the built up tension in your body.
  • Makes sleeping easier which reduces any sleep-related stress from your mind.

Remember: When your body feels better, so will your mind.

 

2. Helps Sharpen Memory and Thinking

The same endorphins that work to boost your mood also improve your concentration. This makes you mentally ‘sharp’ when completing tasks. Physical activities that require hand-eye coordination such as tennis, badminton or squash, are particularly beneficial for brain building.

 

Reasons exercise helps the brain stay sharp:

  • Increases the level of oxygen to your brain improving circulation.
  • Breaks the mental fatigue and slumps often experienced during a day’s work. Short walks at lunch time or even a few jumping jacks can help reboot your brain for an afternoon of learning.
  • Stimulates the growth of new brain cells, reducing the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss and enhancing the effects of helpful brain chemicals.

Whatsmore, the birth of new brain cells also fight against age-related decline. That means by doing daily fitness activities, you can keep your body looking and feeling like your younger, healthier self. Perfect!

 

3. Gives Your Immune System A Boost

Catching a cold can leave you feeling blue mentally as well as physically. As you feel groggy from a blocked nose and sore head, you tend to act groggy too. Though we’re not suggesting exercising whilst you’re ill is a good idea, frequently exercising when healthy can help to combat illness, boost your immune system and make you feel happier.

 

Reasons why exercise improves your immune system:

  • Getting active helps to flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, reducing your chances of developing a cold, flu or other illness.
  • Exercise causes your white blood cells (WBC) to circulate quicker helping you to detect illnesses earlier than before. White blood cells are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease.
  • Slows down the release of stress hormones making your mind a more peaceful place.

 

4. Improved Self-Esteem And Energy

Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body and soul. 

Along with the feelings of conquering your fitness goals, finding a healthy, balanced routine will also work to give you an energy boost. 

Getting Into A Routine

  1. Start easing yourself into exercise with a 10 minute home workout, walking the dog or quite simply having a dance around your room.
  2. Increase your workout by extending the time you are active for or start going to more fitness classes.
  3. Establish a routine of which days you will exercise.
  4. Even on your days off, making simple changes to your fitness routine like taking the stairs instead of a lift or going for a short walk instead of sitting on the sofa can keep your brain active and stresses at bay.

 

Remember: The key to unlocking improved mental health through exercise is to do it regularly. The more you workout and get active, generally, the healthier and happier you will feel.

 
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Family-Friendly, Mixed Gender Sport Ideas

Having looked at six reasons why and how sport helps mental health, let’s take a look at some ways you can adapt sports into your daily routine.
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring, gender-specific or child-unfriendly. Here are some great ideas to incorporate some moderate exercise into your daily routine:

 

  • Taking daily 20 to 30 minute walks during work breaks, after dinner to walk the dog and so on. Develop this by joining hiking clubs and take to trekking through the wilderness. You’ll soon be saying ‘the bigger the hills the better!’
  • Go cycling with your children a few times a week. Particularly if you live on a quiet road, going up and down the street and having races, can be super fun as well as tiring! Or, make the most of cycling clubs and enjoy a group venture to the hundreds of mountain bike trails out there.
  • There’s plenty of male and female football clubs knocking about. Join a team and enjoy the competitive side to sports whilst making new friends. Some clubs also offer family-friendly football games for parents and children to play together, so ask if your club does or organise it yourself!
  • Family swimming sessions every other weekend. Take advantage of your local leisure centre or make it a fun, family-bonding activity, venturing to the swimming baths every so often.
  • Play social, leisurely sports like golf. Done regularly can help you build friendships with other players, which contributes to boosting your mood and confidence, improving your mental health.
  • Fit some physical activity in your evenings by joining the local gym and taking part in fitness or yoga classes. See some awesome yoga tutorials here for use at home.

 

Ultimately, if there’s one thing you should’ve learnt from this article, it’s any exercise is better than none when taking care of your mental health.

By improving circulation of important cells in the body, loosening tight muscles from built up stress and distracting yourself from worrying thoughts, you can make yourself into a happier, healthier you. So, go forth and fitness!
Sara Whitehouse, SEO and Content Editor at Stadia Sports

Stadia Sports are a leading UK manufacturer and supplier of sports equipment, offering a wide range of products including football goals, football nets and accessories.

We are 2 Years Old! Blog Anniversary of Be Ur Own Light!

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(image: Michelle Leigh writes)

Wow! I can’t believe that Be Ur Own Light has turned 2 years old! We celebrated our second blogiversary on 1st March so I am a few days late but it doesn’t matter.

This blog has provided me with so many amazing opportunities so far. I have met more and more people who are like minded and want to speak about their own mental health to battle stigma. I have met some incredible people online too and such wonderful contributors. I love also finding and telling untold stories.

The blog  has really grown this year into a good mental health resource. We have had lots of contributors which has been fab. I (Eleanor, founder of blog) have also started a new career as a mental health writer and journalist. That is largely down to the success of the blog and I have truly found a niche. Be Ur Own Light is also a shortlisted finalist in the Health and Social care individual category of the UK Blog Awards 2018! Thank you for all your support of the blog and what we do.

I have written this year for Metro.co.uk, Glamour Magazine (online), No Panic, Happiful Magazine and Happiful.com, Counselling Directory, Mind, SANE, Time to Change, STOP Suicide,  Jewish News, Equilibrium Magazine, World Union of Jewish Students,
and been featured in Cosmopolitan UK, Elle UK and Prima.

Thank you to all these amazing people who have provided guest blogs this year. I have been humbled to work with experts and people with lived experience, to provide information and tell others stories to help end the stigma and provide a resource on mental health.

So thank you to these guest bloggers who gave me such wonderful content. There is more to come. This year March 2017-18 thanks to:

Hannah Brown- Recovery from Anorexia
Time With-  Therapy queries
Charlotte Underwood- Recovery from depression/ suicide
Trysh Sutton- Pure Path Essential Oils

Ariel Taylor- Trichotillomania guide
Jon Manning- Mental health in schools
Channel 4 and Lloyds Bank- Get the Inside Out campaign
Stephen Galloway- Inspirational lyrics
Eugene Farell AXA PPP- Loneliness tips
Peter Lang- PTSD and recovery
Kaitlyn W- Light beyond self harm
Jess Harris- Organ donation
Sam- Recovery from bipolar disorder
Ryan Jackson- Reasons for drug and alcohol addiction stigma
Redfin.com- Seasonal Affective disorder
United Mind Laughter Yoga- Job and wellbeing
Christina Hendricks- on PTSD
Reviews Bee- Child Mental Health
Consumer Money Worries- Mental Health and money
Stephen Smith- OCD and nOCD app
Arslan Butt- University students and mental illness
Tony Weekes- Unity MHS
Ellie Miles- Fighting Health Anxiety
Hope Virgo- Anorexia and recovery
Ann Heathcote- Government and mental health
Jasmine Burns- Strategies to help Binge eating
Bill Weiss- Surviving Opiate withdrawal
Jessica Flores- Bipolar 2 – depression
Jay Pigmintiello- Mindfulness and Meditation
David Baum- 365 Challenge for PTSD awareness
Karen- Mental health professional with anxiety
Dr Stacey Leibowitz Levy- CBT
Lucy Boyle- Burnout Syndrome
Diamond G Health Informer- Technology and mental health
Juno Medical- Anxiety Disorders

Thank you to everyone! This year we aim to cover even more mental health issues and disorders in our quest to provide information and be a home for all.

This year I have also written personal posts about my fight with my anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, mental health and dating, mental health and weight gain, NHS waiting lists and therapy,  book reviews for Trigger Press for Hope Virgo and Karen Mantons books, Workplace and mental health stigma, Reading as therapy and more! Time to Talk Day and Eating Disorder Awareness Week marked and many conversations had eg stigma about psychiatric medication.

We have won various awards from other bloggers- Liebster, Sunshine, Mystery and Top 30 social anxiety blog and Top 100 bipolar blog from Feedspot.com.

I am so excited that we have over 4,000 followers on Twitter, almost 600 on WordPress, over 2000 on Instagram and of course my loyal Facebook followers too.

Thank you friends and supporters! Heres to a great year talking about all things mental health and normalising it to all.

Eleanor x

Why Wait: Eating Disorder Awareness Week and My story with Anorexia: Guest post by Hannah Brown

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(image: rebloggy)

Please read with care: Trigger Warning: Eating disorder Discussion

As Eating Disorder awareness week progresses, it has really got me thinking about my own journey and the symptoms that I experienced as part of my anorexia.

The hashtag #WhyWait is being used this week as we all come to terms with the fact that according to Beat 34% of UK adults cannot name a symptom of an eating disorder, and that even more shockingly sufferers wait 3 years before seeking any sort of treatment.

Aged 19,I started the diet that I thought would give me a wealth of happiness, how wrong I was. What I also started was my gradual decline into anorexia. There were warning signs, there were behaviours that were obsessive and out of control, my physical appearance was changing, becoming weaker and I was almost translucent in colour-  but most strikingly was the change to my personality.

Extreme calorie restriction causes a massive reduction in personal motivation and general apathy. Studies have shown how thoughts become obsessed on food and their behaviours around meals soon turns slightly absurd.

This was absolutely my experience, it crept up on me scarily, without warning. As my diet became more and more refined, my thoughts were turning more and more to food, how I could further restrict, avoid the meal time or alter plans in order to exercise more.

There were so many signs, so many warning lights that for some reason I chose to ignore. I brushed them under the carpet, and kept up with the pretence of “I’m fine”.

Ignoring the issue, or refusal to acknowledge that a problem was developing was a symptom of my perfectionism and the denial that I was experiencing was concurrent with my theme of being the strong one, both within my peer groups and within my family unit.

But why was I waiting, what was I waiting for?

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(image: Rebloggy)

What I didn’t realise was that by waiting to act on my symptoms with any sort of conviction and determination, I was simply prolonging the agony that I would face in the initial stages of my recovery, making those first few months even more difficult. As the behaviours became more entrenched, they became habitual in nature. Personality traits that were once alien and unrecognisable soon become my identity.

There came a time, that I decided to reach out to my GP and unfortunately I didn’t quite get the support that I thought I was going to- whilst I wasn’t turned away, my weight certainly wasn’t critical enough to cause any sort of concern from the medical profession and the advise was to add a dessert into my meal plan, perhaps the occasional spread of butter.

In hindsight, perhaps if I had listened to this very basic advice I wouldn’t have gone on to lose more weight. However, there was no attention given to the mental battles that I was starting to have with my intuition and my fear of food- or the the fear of losing control over it.

Visiting my GP had taken a great deal of courage, as I said I’m always the one that is simply fine, is there for everyone else, often at the expense of myself. To get this quite flippant advice left me feeling slightly desensitised. I left wth their advice- put it in a box and chose to ignore it, my mental health not addressed.

But I don’t want my experience to stop you, or your loved ones reaching out to your GP, because for many they can be the most valuable resource available. Go in, if you can with a loved one and don’t leave that room until you have been given care that you totally deserve.

Alternatively use the Beat help finder page to find that source of support that will be right for you, grab it and don’t let go.

It is OK not to be OK, it is OK to struggle, and it is OK to ask for help. The term “admitting” has slightly negative connotations, like we are owning up to something, a crime. But please, please do not think of it like this. You wouldn’t ever wait after discovering a lump, or if feeling constantly unwell- the same should be said for your mental health.

My journey continued and things didn’t get better until they had got much much worse. I ended up in hospital, but even then I was naive at just how unwell I had become. Hospital was an experience that I will never forget, it was difficult and lonely but undoubtedly it did save my life.

I know, deep down though, that it could have been avoided, I could have saved myself and prevented all the heartache that I endured as part of my recovery.

In reading this, please ask yourself the question: Why Wait?

And take it from me, i might not know you, but you absolutely deserve to receive support and help.

You’re not weak but wholesome and rich, go to my website https://aneartohear.co.uk/- because you deserve to be heard. We can help you.

Guest Post: Charlotte Underwoods Story: How I lost my loved one to Suicide and Recovery from my own Mental Health Issues.

Charlotte Underwood, writer and mental health campaigner, shares her courageous story with us. Trigger warning: discussions of suicide and substance abuse.

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(image: Pinterest)

Life has not been especially easy for me. I’ve got more layers than an onion due to this, though my mental health really took a turn for the worst when my father went missing for over a month. He was found, suicide was confirmed.

It was hard to process, suicide was supposed to be for movies, not for real life, right? I went through a lot of things after that, blaming others, blaming myself, creating conspiracy theories, just so I didn’t have to accept that my best friend, my daddy, was gone.

Losing a loved one to suicide is so hard because it’s often sudden and leaves a lot of questions and nuclear damage that domino effects into every single person who knew and loved the victim. I’m all reality, it is no ones fault for a suicide, not even the victims.

There are so many possible causes and things that can trigger a suicidal episode that it is impossible to always know that someone is at risk, we often miss signs even when they are right in front of us.

My dads death led me to substance abuse and my own suicide attempt, I didn’t want to live without him, I was a daddy’s girl and he was the only one who helped me with my own mental health. For three years I refused to grieve and my life was looking to be pretty similar to my fathers demise, a life of hiding my feelings because I didn’t want to upset anyone or cause a problem.

It wasn’t until I met my husband and learnt to think about myself that I realised through it all, I had lost track of who I was. I decided then and there to start being selfish (without being mean) and to love myself and fight back and work with my own mind.

It’s been a rollercoaster since, recovery isn’t linear, my mood changes in seconds and each day is a battle, I may look fine but there’s always so much going on inside my head and body (mental health has physical effects too!).

What I have learnt though is to not be ashamed of who I am, to demand the help and support I need and to not let my mental health limit me because it does not define me, I am Charlotte, plain and simple.

It’s important to remember that all your feelings are valid, it’s ok to hurt and be angry and to have all this going on because it’s your body responding to trauma or something in your environment eg stressors.

That’s why it’s so important to talk and to be reminded that it’s ok not to be ok and that you are not alone!

Charlotte is an author, is on Twitter and can be found at https://charlotteunderwoodauthor.wordpress.com/