So the last few weeks have been a bit of a rough ride for so many. We're juggling new roles as parents, children, siblings, and friends and these enforced roles aren't necessarily the ones we envisaged for our own mental wellbeing and happiness. We miss the informal social interactions that make us human. We are hardwired, as are all primates, to be sociable. Yet we've had that sociability taken away from us and replaced with underlying feelings of out of control fear and anxiety.
Uncertainty isn’t something we humans tend to cope with that well and yet at the moment we just HAVE to.
To offer up a little of the wisdom I've gleaned from various articles and podcasts in the last few weeks, I've put together my own personal hit list; quick go-to solutions that help me when I start to feel the overwhelm take over and the happiness start to dip
1. Giving is receiving
Helping and giving to others is really and truly linked to our own happiness. I've always intuitively known that it feels good to give something to someone I care about, or even to a stranger (at Bloom I always try and write little notes and pop in samples with customers orders).
At the beginning of lockdown I gave away a whole load of seeds to friends to grow as I knew they'd have time on their hands for a 'growing project' and I also knew that seeds were in short supply. It felt so good to share!
I recently listened to an episode of the Making Sense podcast with best selling author Sam Harris (if you've ever listened to this podcast then you'll understand why i'm a fan: it's an intelligent and thoughtful interview format show between Sam and an expert guest covering topics ranging from philosophy and neuroscience to meditation). A recent episode was a fascinating conversation between Sam and psychology professor Laurie Santos who specialises in the study of happiness. And guess what? She cited numerous research projects which demonstrate that giving to others, actually is a form of giving to ourselves. Kind acts nourish us emotionally so giving becomes an act of self care too. And those acts don't have to involve spending loads of money - giving can be a compliment, a kind word, an act of listening.
3 acts of giving/kindness that you could try:
- Treat everyone you meet with kindness and a smile today.
- Leave a small bunch of flowers on a friends doorstep with a note telling them how much you appreciate having them around
- Find something beautiful to photograph and send that photo to someone you care about with a kind message
2. Smell can make you happy
As an aromatherapist I know how fundamentally smell (of essential oils) can impact on mood, but during this crisis it's been a total lifesaver for me. I've used oils daily to boost my mood. I've tapped into my favourite uplifters for grey days like Bergamot, Lemongrass, Lime and Neroli. When i've felt the ground under my feet become unstable and anxiety and fear start to filter though I've reach for strong oils to root and ground me like Ginger, Cedarwood and Amyris. And when I've felt the fingers of depression starting to gently numb me I've gently inhaled some of the strong re-energisers like Rosemary and Lemon Eucalyptus to bring life back into my weary mind.
The link between our olfactory bulb where our smell receptors are located and our mood is not a new area of research but I've read some amazing articles in the last few weeks that shed light and research on the links between smell and depression in particular. If your smell receptors are inhibited and your olfactory bulb are damaged you are much more likely to display traits of depression. Conversely if you are struggling with depression you are much more likely to have a lesser sense of smell than a 'normal' person. Scientists have yet to establish why this clear link betwen mood and smelll exits, but there's no denying that it's there.
A simple and easy trick to boost your mood instantly is to inhale something that you enjoy:
- A favourite essential oil on a tissue
- A favourite flower
- Some fresh food, coffee or a cake.
3. Being present is a present to yourself.
The notion of being present is everywhere at the moment. But it’s a good notion to pass around. Whether your kind of present involves jumpting up and down to feel alive (and noticing that moment) or mindfully chewing your toast and appreciating the taste, both involve the skillful act of noticing. Sounds easy. Not always so. Being present is a kind of meditation, it slows the mind, calms the soul. It also involves being kind to yourself - not scolding yourself for failing to be present when you're time rushed (as a human in the 21st century you're allowed to be time rushed and to not notice every single thing you do), and allowing yourself realistic 'being present' goals
You'll find that like exercise, the more you consciously practice being present the easier it will become and the more you'll find yourself being 'aware' without having to consciously 'be aware' and the calmer and more measured you'll become when faced with difficult situations or emotions
A simple way to begin the journey into being more present is to try and incorporate moments of presence into everyday activities:
- Really savour and notice something that you're eating. Notice the taste, the texture, the movement of the food around your mouthand how it feels to swallow
- Become present in the shower. Notice the feel of the water on your body, the temperature of the water, the sound of the water as it falls from you
- When you next take a walk, immerse yourself in the experience of walking for a minute or two. Notice the feel of your feet on the pathway, the sound that your feet make as they move along the ground, the feel of the wind, or sun, or rain on your skin.