Binge eating is when a person eats a much larger amount of food in a shorter period of time than he or she normally would. During binge eating, the person also feels a loss of control.
A binge eater often:
Eats 5,000–15,000 calories in one sitting
Often snacks, in addition to eating three meals a day
Overeats throughout the day
Binge eating by itself usually leads to becoming overweight.
Binge eating may occur on its own or with another eating disorder, such as bulimia. People with bulimia typically eat large amounts of high-calorie foods, usually in secret. After this binge eating, they often force themselves to vomit or take laxatives. For more information, see: Bulimia
The cause of binge eating is unknown. However, binge eating often begins during or after strict dieting.Last Updated: 08/22/2017
Most people with binge-eating disorder are overweight or obese, but you may be at a normal weight. Behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms of binge-eating disorder include:
Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, such as over a two-hour period
Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
Eating even when you’re full or not hungry
Eating rapidly during binge episodes
Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
Frequently eating alone or in secret
Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss
Unlike a person with bulimia, after a binge, you don’t regularly compensate for extra calories eaten by vomiting, using laxatives or exercising excessively. You may try to diet or eat normal meals. But restricting your diet may simply lead to more binge eating.
The severity of binge-eating disorder is determined by how often episodes of bingeing occur during a week.
When to see a doctor
If you have any symptoms of binge-eating disorder, seek medical help as soon as possible. Binge-eating problems can vary in their course from short-lived to recurrent or they may persist for years if left untreated.
Talk to your medical care provider or a mental health professional about your binge-eating symptoms and feelings. If you’re reluctant to seek treatment, talk to someone you trust about what you’re going through. A friend, loved one, teacher or faith leader can help you take the first steps to successful treatment of binge-eating disorder.
Helping a loved one who has symptoms
A person with binge-eating disorder may become an expert at hiding behavior, making it hard for others to detect the problem. If you have a loved one you think may have symptoms of binge-eating disorder, have an open and honest discussion about your concerns.
Provide encouragement and support. Offer to help your loved one find a qualified medical care provider or mental health professional and make an appointment.
The causes of binge-eating disorder are unknown. But genetics, biological factors, long-term dieting and psychological issues increase your risk.
Binge-eating disorder is more common in women than in men. Although people of any age can have binge-eating disorder, it often begins in the late teens or early 20s.
Factors that can increase your risk of developing binge-eating disorder include:
Family history. You’re much more likely to have an eating disorder if your parents or siblings have (or had) an eating disorder. This may indicate that inherited genes increase the risk of developing an eating disorder.
Dieting. Many people with binge-eating disorder have a history of dieting. Dieting or restricting calories during the day may trigger an urge to binge eat, especially if you have symptoms of depression.
Psychological issues. Many people who have binge-eating disorder feel negatively about themselves and their skills and accomplishments. Triggers for bingeing can include stress, poor body self-image and the availability of preferred binge foods.
You may develop psychological and physical problems related to binge eating.
Complications that may be caused by binge-eating disorder include:
Poor quality of life
Problems functioning at work, with your personal life or in social situations
Medical conditions related to obesity, such as joint problems, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and some sleep-related breathing disorders
Psychiatric disorders that are often linked with binge-eating disorder include:
Substance use disorders
Although there’s no sure way to prevent binge-eating disorder, if you have symptoms of binge eating, seek professional help. Your medical care provider can advise you on where to get help.
If you think a friend or loved one has a binge-eating problem, steer her or him toward healthier behavior and professional treatment before the situation worsens. If you have a child:
Foster and reinforce a healthy body image, regardless of body shape or size
Discuss any concerns with your child’s primary care provider, who may be in a good position to identify early indicators of an eating disorder and help prevent its development
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Gardening encompasses a range of basic activities such as sowing, the planting of fruit, vegetables and flowers to more complex horticultural activities. We use the term ‘gardening’ to describe “an activity in which people grow, cultivate, and take care of plants (flowers and vegetables) for non-commercial use,” in domestic gardens, allotment and community gardens .
Engagement in gardening activities (either integrated in the school curriculum or community and home based) has shown to promote social relationships, family connection, emotional and mental wellbeing, moderate stress, reduce depression and anxiety, and improve cognitive and educational outcomes in children and adolescents [4-6]. Further personal well-being effects include increased enjoyment, sense of achievement, satisfaction and pride from nurturing the plants; feelings of mastery and empowerment for children who do not excel in the traditional academic setting; provide quiet time for reflection and increased confidence and self-esteem . Participating in gardening activities appears to have a similar positive impact on adult wellbeing and mental health, with improvements in life satisfaction, vigour, psychological wellbeing, positive affect, quality of life [7-9] and reductions in stress, anger, fatigue, depression and anxiety symptoms reported [9-11]. Engagement in gardening has shown to have both immediate and long-term effects on mental health outcomes. Just gardening for several hours provides instantaneous reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms, while gardening daily is associated with reduced stress and increased life satisfaction .
Gardening is one of the most preferred methods of physical activity in older adults . Recent research conducted at the University of Roehampton examined the effect of a gardening programme involving cultivating food on promoting bone health, mental health and reducing falls in older adults . While the programme did not improve physical health, it did improve participant’s subjective wellbeing, and self-efficacy in achieving their goals. Other studies have further shown gardening to reduce stress, promote feelings of mastery, accomplishment and competence, higher levels of self-efficacy, self-esteem, and psychological wellbeing [14-15]. Moreover, the social and physical health benefits of community gardening has shown to delay dementia symptoms .
Given the compelling evidence for gardening and improved mental (and physical) health, Horticultural Therapy was developed as a cost-effective alternative treatment for those with psychological and psychiatric issues. Horticultural Therapy, which involves sowing and planting with therapeutic goals and objectives for improving or recovering health, is effective in treating patients with a number of mental health conditions, including clinical depression, schizophrenia, and substance abuse [17-18]. Unsurprisingly, such positive effects of the Horticultural Therapy appears to be stronger enduring in patients and therapy users than with the general population, with improvement of patients’ mental health persisting three months following therapy .
Why does gardening improve wellbeing and mental health?
There are a number of reasons for the positive effects of gardening on wellbeing and mental health. First, there is the strenuous physical exertion underpinning gardening activities. The benefits of physical activity and exercise for mental health are well known, with 30 minutes of daily exercise sufficient to improve and maintain wellbeing and mental health . Planting, weeding, digging, raking, and mowing are considered physically intense and avid gardeners can easily exert the same amount of energy as running or going to the gym . Gardening provides a more creative and enjoyable way to undertake physical exercise and meet the national exercise recommendations, which in return contribute to improving psychological health.
Gardening also allows individuals to interact with nature. In recent years, a growing number of studies led by researchers at Essex University, have demonstrated the benefits of ‘Green Exercise’ (GE; being physically active within a natural environment or greenspace), on wellbeing and mental health, with reductions in stress and depression, increases in self-esteem, mood and wellbeing reported in children and adolescents, adults, and vulnerable and disadvantaged populations . Even small doses, such as five minutes of nature, is considered to improve self-esteem and mood . Furthermore, GE can provide greater benefits than physical activity, exercise, or nature contact alone for wellbeing and mental health . Gardening therefore offers an opportunity to not only interact with nature but also engaging in physical activity, therefore reaping all the health benefits of GE.
Community and therapeutic gardening projects offer a social context to the activity for social interaction, which can counteract feelings of loneliness and social isolation, especially for those with pre-existing learning difficulties and mental health . It provides an opportunity to meet new people, make new friends, connect with people to develop a network or inner circle and draw support from like-minded people.
How to incorporate gardening into our lives during and beyond social isolation
There is clear evidence that gardening is an enjoyable and effective activity for improving physical activity as well as wellbeing and mental health across the lifespan. Whilst we are adapting to the many changes to work and home-life, the opportunities to incorporate gardening presents itself as an activity that individuals can do on their own or with loved ones. Gardening activities can include a range of activities, which suit all needs and skill levels in enjoyable and meaningful ways. For example, growing tropical houseplants from kitchen scraps such as avocado seeds and pineapple tops, or create a sensory herb garden such as basil, parsley, mint and chives on the windowsill using empty tin cans. Sprouting seeds is also an ideal way to produce some salad sprouts especially in tiny spaces, whilst teaching children about the journey of food from field to fork. Children’s learning can be bought outdoors in easy and educational activities. For example, using flowers for solving maths equations, examining soil, roots and shoots for biology lessons and the web of life.
Other activities that children, adults and older adults can incorporate into their lifestyle include sowing, growing, weeding and watering vegetables, fruits, plants, shrubs and flowers. Those that new to gardening can start small, growing in little pots or tin cans. Salad greens such as lettuce, rocket and chard are easy to grow in small spaces, and many baby leaf greens are ready to harvest in only 4-5 weeks. It is important to note that gardens can be everywhere, by the front door, steps, balcony, a rooftop or community gardens and allotments and all count towards maintaining wellbeing and mental health. Gardening offers a place where trial and error is welcome, so imagination can flow freely about what to grow. The work also never ends with gardening, the care and maintenance will keep gardeners active for at least 10 months of the year. Engagement in such activities will allow adults working from home to take regular breaks and reduce sedentary behaviour; children studying remotely or being home-schooled to reflect on their learning and reduce the stress associated with learning; families to interact with each other in a meaningful way and reduce feelings of helplessness and loneliness in older adults beyond the current climate.
Dr Vaithehy Shanmuganathan-Felton is a Senior Lecturer in Mental health and Wellbeing in Sport and Exercise at University of Roehampton.
Dr Luke Felton is a Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology of Human Performance at University of Roehampton.
Celia Briseid is the Growhampton Project Manager at University of Roehampton.
Betty Maitland is a Research Assistant at University of Roehampton.
When we meditate, we inject far-reaching and long-lasting benefits into our lives: We lower our stress levels, we get to know our pain, we connect better, we improve our focus, and we’re kinder to ourselves. Let us walk you through the basics in our new mindful guide on how to meditate.
BY MINDFUL STAFF
JANUARY 31, 2019
This is a guidebook to the many different styles of meditation, the various benefits of each practice, plus free guided audio practices that help you learn how to meditate.
How do you learn to meditate? In mindfulness meditation, we’re learning how to pay attention to the breath as it goes in and out, and notice when the mind wanders from this task. This practice of returning to the breath builds the muscles of attention and mindfulness.
When we pay attention to our breath, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment—to anchor ourselves in the here and now on purpose, without judgement.
In mindfulness practice, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment—to anchor ourselves in the here and now on purpose, without judgement.
The idea behind mindfulness seems simple—the practice takes patience. Indeed, renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg recounts that her first experience with meditation showed her how quickly the mind gets caught up in other tasks. “I thought, okay, what will it be, like, 800 breaths before my mind starts to wander? And to my absolute amazement, it was one breath, and I’d be gone,” says Salzberg.
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While meditation isn’t a cure-all, it can certainly provide some much-needed space in your life. Sometimes, that’s all we need to make better choices for ourselves, our families, and our communities. And the most important tools you can bring with you to your meditation practice are a little patience, some kindness for yourself, and a comfortable place to sit.
A Basic Meditation for Beginners
The first thing to clarify: What we’re doing here is aiming for mindfulness, not some process that magically wipes your mind clear of the countless and endless thoughts that erupt and ping constantly in our brains. We’re just practicing bringing our attention to our breath, and then back to the breath when we notice our attention has wandered.
Get comfortableand prepare to sit still for a few minutes. After you stop reading this, you’re going to simply focus on your own natural inhaling and exhaling of breath.
Focus on your breath. Where do you feel your breath most? In your belly? In your nose? Try to keep your attention on your inhale and exhale.
Follow your breath for two minutes. Take a deep inhale, expanding your belly, and then exhale slowly, elongating the out-breath as your belly contracts.
Welcome back. What happened? How long was it before your mind wandered away from your breath? Did you notice how busy your mind was even without consciously directing it to think about anything in particular? Did you notice yourself getting caught up in thoughts before you came back to reading this? We often have little narratives running in our minds that we didn’t choose to put there, like: “Why DOES my boss want to meet with me tomorrow?” “I should have gone to the gym yesterday.” “I’ve got to pay some bills” or (the classic) “I don’t have time to sit still, I’ve got stuff to do.”
We “practice” mindfulness so we can learn how to recognize when our minds are doing their normal everyday acrobatics, and maybe take a pause from that for just a little while so we can choose what we’d like to focus on.
If you experienced these sorts of distractions (and we all do), you’ve made an important discovery: simply put, that’s the opposite of mindfulness. It’s when we live in our heads, on automatic pilot, letting our thoughts go here and there, exploring, say, the future or the past, and essentially, not being present in the moment. But that’s where most of us live most of the time—and pretty uncomfortably, if we’re being honest, right? But it doesn’t have to be that way.
We “practice” mindfulness so we can learn how to recognize when our minds are doing their normal everyday acrobatics, and maybe take a pause from that for just a little while so we can choose what we’d like to focus on. In a nutshell, meditation helps us have a much healthier relationship with ourselves (and, by extension, with others).
WHY LEARN TO MEDITATE?
When we meditate, we inject far-reaching and long-lasting benefits into our lives. And bonus: you don’t need any extra gear or an expensive membership.
Here are five reasons to meditate:
1: Understand your pain 2: Lower your stress 3: Connect better 4: Improve focus 5: Reduce brain chatter
How to Meditate
Meditation is simpler (and harder) than most people think. Read these steps, make sure you’re somewhere where you can relax into this process, set a timer, and give it a shot:
1) Take a seat
Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
2) Set a time limit
If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose a short time, such as five or 10 minutes.
3) Notice your body
You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged, you can kneel—all are fine. Just make sure you are stable and in a position you can stay in for a while.
4) Feel your breath
Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes in and as it goes out.
5) Notice when your mind has wandered
Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing that your mind has wandered—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
6) Be kind to your wandering mind
Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.
7) Close with kindness
When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze (if your eyes are closed, open them). Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.
That’s it! That’s the practice. You go away, you come back, and you try to do it as kindly as possible.
Meditation 101: The Basics
Try this 3-part guided audio series from Barry Boyce:
How long would you like to meditate? Sometimes we only have time for a quick check-in, sometimes we can dip in a little longer. Meditating every day helps build awareness, fosters resilience, and lowers stress. Try to make meditation a habit by practicing with these short meditations from our Editor-in-Chief Barry Boyce. Find time to sit once a day for one month and see what you notice.
A short practice for settling the mind, intended for doing in the middle of the day, wherever you are out in the world.
A longer practice that explores meditation posture, breathing techniques, and working with thoughts and emotions as they surface during mindfulness practice.
A practice that explores sitting in formal meditation for longer periods of time.
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Meditation Tips and Techniques:
We’ve gone over the basic breath meditation so far, but there are other mindfulness techniques that use different focal points than the breath to anchor our attention—external objects like a sound in the room, or something broader, such as noticing spontaneous things that come into your awareness during an aimless wandering practice. We’ve tapped mindfulness teacher Elisha Goldstein to craft our premium How to Meditate Course. If you’re interested in learning various meditation techniques to help you find focus, feel peace, and uncover your inner power, please explore our Mindful Online Learning School.
It’s estimated that 95% of our behavior runs on autopilot. That’s because neural networks underlie all of our habits, reducing our millions of sensory inputs per second into manageable shortcuts so we can function in this crazy world. These default brain signals are so efficient that they often cause us to relapse into old behaviors before we remember what we meant to do instead.
Mindfulness is the exact opposite of these default processes. It’s executive control rather than autopilot, and enables intentional actions, willpower, and decisions. But that takes practice. The more we activate the intentional brain, the stronger it gets. Every time we do something deliberate and new, we stimulate neuroplasticity, activating our grey matter, which is full of newly sprouted neurons that have not yet been groomed for “autopilot” brain.
But here’s the problem: While our intentional brain knows what is best for us, our autopilot brain causes us to shortcut our way through life. So how can we trigger ourselves to be mindful when we need it most? This is where the notion of “behavior design” comes in. It’s a way to put your intentional brain in the driver’s seat. There are two ways to do that—first, slowing down the autopilot brain by putting obstacles in its way, and second, removing obstacles in the path of the intentional brain, so it can gain control.
Shifting the balance to give your intentional brain more power takes some work, though. Here are some ways to get started.
Put meditation reminders around you. If you intend to do some yoga or to meditate, put your yoga mat or your meditation cushion in the middle of your floor so you can’t miss it as you walk by.
Refresh your reminders regularly. Say you decide to use sticky notes to remind yourself of a new intention. That might work for about a week, but then your autopilot brain and old habits take over again. Try writing new notes to yourself; add variety or make them funny. That way they’ll stick with you longer.
Create new patterns. You could try a series of “If this, then that” messages to create easy reminders to shift into the intentional brain. For instance, you might come up with, “If office door, then deep breath,” as a way to shift into mindfulness as you are about to start your workday. Or, “If phone rings, take a breath before answering.” Each intentional action to shift into mindfulness will strengthen your intentional brain.
More Styles of Mindfulness Meditation
Once you have explored a basic seated meditation practice, you might want to consider other forms of meditation including walking and lying down. Whereas the previous meditations used the breath as a focal point for practice, these meditations below focus on different parts of the body.
Introduction to the Body Scan Meditation
Try this: feel your feet on the ground right now. In your shoes or without, it doesn’t matter. Then track or scan over your whole body, bit by bit—slowly—all the way up to the crown of your head. The point of this practice is to check in with your whole body: Fingertips to shoulders, butt to big toe. Only rules are: No judging, no wondering, no worrying (all activities your mind may want to do); just check in with the physical feeling of being in your body. Aches and pains are fine. You don’t have to do anything about anything here. You’re just noticing.
Body Scan Meditation
A brief body awareness practice for tuning in to sensations, head-to-toe.
Begin to focus your attention on different parts of your body. You can spotlight one particular area or go through a sequence like this: toes, feet (sole, heel, top of foot), through the legs, pelvis, abdomen, lower back, upper back, chest shoulders, arms down to the fingers, shoulders, neck, different parts of the face, and head. For each part of the body, linger for a few moments and notice the different sensations as you focus.
The moment you notice that your mind has wandered, return your attention to the part of the body you last remember.
If you fall asleep during this body-scan practice, that’s okay. When you realize you’ve been nodding off, take a deep breath to help you reawaken and perhaps reposition your body (which will also help wake it up). When you’re ready, return your attention to the part of the body you last remember focusing on.
Introduction to the Walking Meditation
Fact: Most of us live pretty sedentary lives, leaving us to build extra-curricular physical activity into our days to counteract all that. Point is: Mindfulness doesn’t have to feel like another thing on your to-do list. It can be injected into some of the activities you’re already doing. Here’s how to integrate a mindful walking practice into your day.
A mindful movement practice for bringing awareness to what we feel with each step.
As you begin, walk at a natural pace. Place your hands wherever comfortable: on your belly, behind your back, or at your sides.
If you find it useful, you can count steps up to 10, and then start back at one again. If you’re in a small space, as you reach ten, pause, and with intention, choose a moment to turn around.
With each step, pay attention to the lifting and falling of your foot. Notice movement in your legs and the rest of your body. Notice any shifting of your body from side to side.
Whatever else captures your attention, come back to the sensation of walking. Your mind will wander, so without frustration, guide it back again as many times as you need.
Particularly outdoors, maintain a larger sense of the environment around you, taking it all in, staying safe and aware.
Introduction to Loving-Kindness Meditation
You cannot will yourself into particular feelings toward yourself or anyone else. Rather, you can practice reminding yourself that you deserve happiness and ease and that the same goes for your child, your family, your friends, your neighbors, and everyone else in the world.
A Loving-Kindness Meditation
Explore this practice to extend compassion to yourself, those around you, and the larger world.
This loving-kindness practice involves silently repeating phrases that offer good qualities to oneself and to others.
You can start by taking delight in your own goodness—calling to mind things you have done out of good-heartedness, and rejoicing in those memories to celebrate the potential for goodness we all share.
Silently recite phrases that reflect what we wish most deeply for ourselves in an enduring way. Traditional phrases are: • May I live in safety. • May I have mental happiness (peace, joy). • May I have physical happiness (health, freedom from pain). • May I live with ease.
Repeat the phrases with enough space and silence between so they fall into a rhythm that is pleasing to you. Direct your attention to one phrase at a time.
Each time you notice your attention has wandered, be kind to yourself and let go of the distraction. Come back to repeating the phrases without judging or disparaging yourself.
After some time, visualize yourself in the center of a circle composed of those who have been kind to you, or have inspired you because of their love. Perhaps you’ve met them, or read about them; perhaps they live now, or have existed historically or even mythically. That is the circle. As you visualize yourself in the center of it, experience yourself as the recipient of their love and attention. Keep gently repeating the phrases of loving-kindness for yourself.
To close the session, let go of the visualization, and simply keep repeating the phrases for a few more minutes. Each time you do so, you are transforming your old, hurtful relationship to yourself, and are moving forward, sustained by the force of kindness.
MORE GUIDED MEDITATION PRACTICES
The RAIN Meditation with Tara Brach
A practice for difficult emotions, RAIN is an acronym for Recognition of what is going on; Acceptance of the experience, just as it is; Interest in what is happening; and Nurture with loving presence.
A Mindfulness Practice to Foster Forgiveness
Explore this practice to let go of the tendency to add to our suffering during challenging situations.
1. Looking after plants gives us a sense of responsibility.
I remember when my mother gave me a little spot in our garden to tend. I must have been about five. I demarcated it with stones and planted forget-me-nots and ‘poached eggs’ flowers that still make me smile.
Source: Eric Rayner, used with permission
Having to care for plants is a good way to learn to look after and respect other living things and when we are small it helps develop an appreciation of the magic of nature.
2. Gardening allows us all to be nurturers.
It doesn’t matter if we are seven or seventy, male, female or transgender, gardening underlines that we are all nurturers. Horticulture is a great equalizer: plants don’t give a fig who is tending them and for those with mental health problems to be able to contribute to such a transformative activity can help boost self-esteem.
3. Gardening keeps us connected to other living things.
Gardening can act as a gentle reminder to us that we are not the centre of the universe. Self-absorption can contribute to depression, and focusing on the great outdoors – even in the pared-down form of a patio – can encourage us to be less insular.article continues after advertisement
As long ago as 2003, research concluded that for those in mental health units and prison, the social nature of group gardening is beneficial because it centers on collective skills and aspirations rather than individual symptoms and deficits. Yet to dig and delve in a walled or fenced garden also helps to keep vulnerable people within boundaries both literally and metaphorically, allowing them to feel safe at the same time as they expand their horizons.
4. Gardening helps us relax and let go.
For many, the peacefulness associated with gardening comes not from its social aspect however, but the opposite. It enables us to escape from other people. ‘Flowers are restful to look at. They have no emotions or conflict,’ said Freud. Tending to plants allows us to tap into the carefree part of ourselves with no deadlines, mortgages, or annoying colleagues to worry about.
Source: Sarah Rayner
Moreover, the rhythmic nature of many tasks associated with horticulture – weeding, trimming, sowing, sweeping – allows thoughts to ebb and flow along with our movements. I often take to watering the plants in my patio when trying to untangle the knots in plots or characterization that can arise when writing a novel, and all too often the solution comes to me far more easily there than if I sit staring and despairing at my screen. The competing thoughts inside my head somehow clear and settle, and ideas that are barely formed take shape.
5. Working in nature releases happy hormones.
To say that gardening encourages us to exercise and spend time outdoors might seem a statement of the obvious, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that what’s good for the body is also good for the mind. When I’m deeply immersed in writing it can be all too easy to forget this, but when we exercise levels of serotonin and dopamine (hormones that make us feel good) rise and the level of cortisol (a hormone associated with stress), is lowered. It’s true that a session in the garden can be tiring, but it can also get rid of excess energy so you sleep better and ultimately feel renewed inside.article continues after advertisement
Source: Sarah Rayner
6. Being amongst plants and flowers reminds us to live in the present moment.
As I explain in my little book on anxiety, ‘when we let go of ruminating on the past or worrying about the future and instead focus on the here and now, anxiety lessens’. So one of the best ways to calm the anxious mind and lift mood is to become more ‘present’. Next time you’re in a garden, pause for a few moments, and allow yourself to be aware of your senses.
Listen. Touch. Smell. See.
Just a short time experiencing the fullness of nature like this can be very restorative.
7. Gardening reminds us of the cycle of life, and thus come to terms with that most universal of anxieties: death.
Source: Sarah Rayner
Rituals can help us work through difficult emotions, including grief, and gardening is a form of ritual involving both the giving of life and acknowledgment of its end; it’s symbolic of regeneration. It’s no coincidence we create gardens of remembrance and mark the scattered ashes and graves of our loved ones with roses, shrubs, and trees; by doing so we’re acknowledging that from dust we all come and to dust we return.
8. Some aspects of gardening allow us to vent anger and aggression…
Clearly then, horticulture is not all sweetness and light: nature has its dark side too. In a similar vein, some of the therapeutic power of gardening is that it allows us to unleash our anger and aggression as well as providing an opportunity to nurture. Why beat pillows with a baseball bat or yell at the cat when you have a hedge to hack? I confess there are times when I enjoy cutting and chopping and yanking and binding as much, if not more, than sowing and feeding and watering, and the great thing about destructiveness in the garden is that it’s also connected to renewal and growth – if you don’t cut back the plants, your space will be swamped by them.article continues after advertisement
9. …whilst others allow us to feel in control.
In a similar vein, anxious people often feel overwhelmed, and gardening can be a good way of gaining a sense of control. Moreover, whereas trying to control other people is invariably a fruitless exercise, you’re more likely to succeed in controlling your beds and borders, which can make gardening a particularly satisfying experience.
10. Last but not least, gardening is easy.
When it comes to growing things, for all its power of healing, the world of plants can feel intimidating to an outsider. If you’re new to gardening you may well be anxious you won’t have ‘green fingers’ and here, as with all new ventures: starting small is key.
You don’t need garden the size of a meadow to enjoy horticulture; you don’t even need a patio the size of mine (above).
Source: Sarah Rayner
Just one hanging basket or few pots along a window ledge can lift the spirits whenever you look at them, and if you’re strapped for cash, why not recycle an old container like a colander or ice-cream carton?
I also recommend looking for packets that say ‘Ideal for Children’ – who cares if you left school years ago? Nasturtium are a good bet, as are sweet peas, or, if you can find a patch of earth which gets sunshine, try sowing sunflowers or poppies directly into the soil. It’s the perfect time of year to get planting and gardening is a lot more affordable than many other forms of therapy, so why not grow yourself better by making an appointment with Mother Nature today?
When your neighbor lets her dog bark all day long while you’re trying to work from home, it’s infuriating, for sure. But ask yourself: Why is this bothering me? Is it because you’re on deadline and feeling frustrated with yourself for procrastinating on this assignment? Are you actually concerned about the well-being of the dog? Has a past poor interaction with this neighbor bled into how you’re reacting this time?
We all have thoughts about who we are: our strengths and weaknesses, values, likes and dislikes, things that upset us. These affect the way that we respond to challenges.“It is also good to have an idea about how certain situations may affect our ‘self.’ For example, we may respond differently if we are overtired or hungry. Checking in with our Self might help us to respond more mindfully,” Volpitta says.
If your car gets a flat tire on the way to a job interview, it might feel like an emergency in the moment. But as frustrating as it feels, most situations likely aren’t as disastrous as they seem. Being able to diffuse a stressful scenario with the understanding that there is a way out and that maybe this will even one day make for a funny anecdote (after you calm down enough to call HR) can help.
Putting the situation in perspective—of the rest of your day, this quarter, your child’s teenage years, etc.—and being able to break the solution down into doable steps is an important part of building resilience.
3. Consider Where to Turn for Support
When you and your partner get into a spat, you likely don’t complain to your mother-in-law. That same logic should go into whom you head for when you need help with other problems. For example, don’t confide in the office gossip when your cube-mate’s stinky lunches are driving you crazy. Going straight to the source may feel trickier but will likely get you closer to the resolution you want: “Jill, do you mind, please, eating your tuna wrap in the office kitchen?”
Likewise, thinking through which person—a friend, a pastor, your dad—will offer what you might need (advice, a supportive ear, paid therapy services) in a troubling time can help you feel more in charge of what’s happening. “So often, we think that we need to handle challenges on our own, but knowing who to go to and how to ask for help is a hallmark of resilience,” Volpitta says.
4. Identify Strategies to Cope and Move Forward
Sometimes, knowing what won’t be helpful when dealing with unfortunate incidents can help you rule out how to respond. If, for example, texting your sister an apology after your last argument made her feel like you didn’t care enough to call, pick up the phone this time. And if hitting the bar with your work posse made the last round of layoffs even more painful (especially the day after), see if anyone is up for a power walk—or a trip to that new ax-throwing joint—this time to burn off that anger.
Then think about what will be useful for moving forward: Call on those supports, for sure (see No. 3). But can you also use some planning skills to plot the next step? “Resilient people have multiple strategies,” Volpitta says. “If one strategy isn’t working, they move on and try something else. They also know that saying no or quitting is sometimes the best strategy.” So know when to cut your losses if it is appropriate for the situation.
5. Flex your Mindfulness Muscle
No, it doesn’t start with S. But, according to Volpitta, mindfulness is a truly helpful way of becoming more mentally strong. Practicing mindfulness, whether through formal practice or simply being present in the moment, gives our brains the chance to best determine how to respond and strengthen those resilient pathways. Consider these 10 little ways to practice mindfulness every day.
The 4 Ss—self, situation, supports, and strategies—can be powerful tools to build your brain’s emotional resilience factor. The missing S? Start now.
When loneliness sets in, the feeling can weigh heavily on your entire body. Whenever this feeling starts to overtake you, fight back and get productive. Whether it is going on a walk, browsing your favorite store, or even picking up around the house, moving about and engaging in other tasks will help to distract you and may offer some relief. It is about taking small steps to get to where you need to be, so anything you can do to push yourself away from these thoughts of isolation will help.
Picture Your Loneliness
Sometimes, people find that picturing their depression or feelings of isolation as something separate from them (such as a cloud or something similar) helps them feel more control over it. These feelings are then seen as something that you can walk away from or have the choice to ignore. It also allows you the knowledge that these feelings are not who you are. You are whoever you choose to be and you have control over how you want to feel.
Reach Out To Someone
Talking about things that you are struggling with can be a huge challenge. It is not easy but can be an extremely helpful step in getting back to your happy self. You never know who you may able to relate to through this process. Many who end up opening up about their problems find themselves surprised as to how many others have gone through (or are currently going through) the same thing. You may end up helping someone you did not even realize was struggling and who was afraid to reach out themselves.
Visit A Furry Friend
Animals can make great companions for those feeling more secluded in life. Dogs especially are naturally social and instinctively want to protect those that they know are struggling. Visit a shelter or pet shop and make some new furry friends. If you are up for it, consider adopting your own pet. Cats, fish, and dogs all make great additions to any household and offer you something to love and care for. They also allow something else to focus on, other than your feelings of isolation.
Set New Goals
By making plans and setting goals, you give yourself something to strive for. Start off slow so that you do not overwhelm yourself. Setting just one or two goals for the day is a great way to start fighting back. Some ideas might be to call up a friend you have not spoken to for a while or go to a coffee shop for an hour. The next day, go grocery shopping, then make yourself one meal. Make them realistic and simple. Once completed, you will have allowed yourself a sense of accomplishment, knowing that you are fighting back one step at a time.
If you are feeling up to it, go to a bookstore and spend some time picking out a journal that you love. When you get back home, make it a goal to write in it a few times a week. Getting your thoughts down on paper can help you look at them from a new perspective. It helps to clarify your emotions, allowing you to know yourself better and may help guide you in overcoming your struggles. Allowing yourself time to reflect and express can make a huge difference in how you approach life.