Do The Little Things In Life – How St David Can Help Your Mental Health
March 1st each year is marked as St David’s Day in Wales, the date St David is considered to have died. For those of you who don’t come from Wales, he was a Welsh bishop during the 6th Century and is the patron saint of Wales (although he hasn’t managed to keep up with St Patrick when it comes to celebrations!)
Now I don’t claim to be a fountain of all knowledge about the life and times of Saint David. At my primary school just outside Cardiff, I do remember that we would all pin leeks or daffodils on our tops to celebrate. There’s nothing quite like the memory of siting in the assembly hall with the strong waft of leeks and while watching some of the boys at the back quietly munching on their raw leeks whilst trying not to get spotted by the teachers (I stuck to a more sober felt type daffodil on my top).
According to the BBC (St David: Ten things about the Patron Saint of Wales) he was a teetotal vegetarian, which kind of makes him alright by me.
And apparently his last words to his followers were ‘Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do.’ And also apparently (thanks BBC), the phrase ‘Gwnewch y pethau bychain’ (‘Do the little things’) is still well-known in Wales.
I can’t claim to have known that phrase as a common Welsh thing. Even though every rugby match I’ve ever watched seems to have a pundit going on about the team doing the little things (or basics) well. It certainly has never ranked up there with the one most prevalent in my family, ‘now, in a minute’ (which totally confused my wife when she first heard it! Do you mean now? Or do you mean in a minute?!!).
And many is the time that someone has been confused by another family saying we had. When we split up in Cardiff to go shopping, my family would arrange a time to meet ‘inside, outside.’ Which if it isn’t immediately obvious would mean meeting inside the shopping centre and outside M&S. Obviously.
But anyway, that little phrase of Saint David can be a pretty handy reminder when it comes to your mental health.
Do The Little Things in Life
When it comes to improving mental health, and reducing things like anxiety and stress, we can all have a tendency to want one ‘big-win’ solution that will help us feel better.
We can also be a bit like that with our physical health too. We might go to the doctor and want the medicine that will get us feeling good again overnight. And certainly when I injured my achillies heel a few weeks ago, emotionally I just wanted the physio to tell me it was nothing and would be better in a few days by doing some simple rehab exercises that wouldn’t require too much effort on my part.
When it comes to good mental health, and dealing with anxiety, depression, worry and stress, it can certainly take a focus on doing the little things consistently to aim to prevent issues, to feel more able to cope with challenges or to provide relief. Consistency is often key to feeling better.
So if we start to apply the wise words of Saint David to mental health, what sorts of things should we all be doing consistently in our lives that will positively impact our mental health?
Positive Things For Mental Health
Now first up let’s just be clear that there are plenty of things you can do that will support your good mental health (more little things than I could ever hope to cover in one article!). That said, many of these things I’ve covered here take only a small amount of time and effort (repeated consistently) and many have a wealth of research and evidence to support their positive impacts.
1. Practice Gratitude
Research has shown that there are many benefits that come from being grateful, with gratitude having been positively correlated with several aspects of well-being and mental health including life satisfaction, happiness, optimism and positivity. Gratitude also significantly predicts less depression and anxiety symptoms.
And it really is one of the most simple things that you can incorporate into your life each day to boost your own mental health. Expressing, appreciating and experiencing gratitude is certainly one of the little things in life that can benefit your mental health, self-esteem and well-being, as well as combating thigs like anxiety and depression.
There’s a load more on the research and practicing gratitude in these two articles:
2. Spend Time in Nature
Research has demonstrated that spending time in nature can help reduce your stress and improve your mental well-being. Even better, you can choose where and when you go for these mental health benefits and you only need about twenty minutes a few times a week.
It’s simple, it’s accessible and it can boost your mental health so it’s certainly worth taking this little bit of time each week to reap the benefits.
There’s more on this little thing and the research in this article: Using Nature To Reduce Stress and Boost Mental Health
3. Exercise and Move
There’s a whole wealth of evidence supporting the use of exercise for good mental health. Aerobic exercise has been shown to help wth clincial depression and even low levels of exercise can have a protective effect against future depression. And exercise can also help in the treatment of anxiety.
Research also suggests that exercise may protect our memory from the impact of stress and may also keep our brains healthier for longer as we age. And on the flip side, too much sitting and inactivity can have all sorts of major negative impacts on your health.
Being active in some way should be a key component in your approach to mental well-being. Have a look at some of these articles if you need more evidence and convincing about exercising to reduce anxiety, depression and stress:
4. Be Kind To Yourself
The concept of being kind to yourself is one that all too often is the basis of social media quotes and memes that lack any sort of substance. It can seem a bit alien or light weight to some and whilst some people find it easy to adopt, others (perhaps with a history of habitually criticising themselves) may find it takes time, effort and perseverance.
Yet the evidence shows that self-compassion, or being kind to yourself, has very positive benefits for your mental health. Being negative, harsh and judgemental towards yourself leads to unhappiness, reduced satisfaction with your life and can feed into low self-esteem, anxiety and depression issues. In contrast, practicing some simple self-compassion exercises can help you to handle challenges, to be more calm and positive in your mindset and to recognise that whatever you are facing is part of the human condition that each and everyone of us experiences at some time or other. Being kind to yourself can help you to more effectively deal with set-backs, challenges and adversity in a way that can make your mental health stronger.
There’s more on that research, along with details of the simple exercises that led to the mental health benefits in the research, over in this post: Why You Should Be Kind To Yourself – The Benefits of Self-Compassion
5. Take Time to Relax and Switch Off
We are all faced with multiple challenges, tasks and drains on our time, energy and thinking, each and every day. All of those demands can leave us either mentally exhausted of feeling like your brain can’t switch off. Certainly many, many of my clients tell me how they either don’t make time for relaxation or consider themselves to be poor at it.
Yet it is something that gets better with practice. Just ten to twenty minutes a day, or every other day, can help you to reduce stress and anxiety and boost your mental health and well-being.
There’s evidence supporting the benefits of ‘relaxation training’ which involves deliberately tensing and relaxing your muscles that I’ve covered in this previous post: Relaxation Training For Anxiety – Could It Help You Ease Your Anxiety?
And, of course, there is also evidence for the effectiveness of hypnosis in reducing anxiety and for other mental health benefits. For example, have a read of this article: The Effectiveness of Hypnotherapy as a Treatment For Anxiety, and be sure to get your copy of my free relaxation hypnosis audio too: Free Hypnosis Audio
I’ve no doubt that if you conscientiously and consistently incorporate these five things into your daily/weekly routine, that you will experience mental health benefits. So, as Saint David might have said if he were around today, do the little things in life for your mental health and by doing so, you will enjoy benefits for your mental health and a reduction in your anxiety, stress and depression.
To your happiness,
Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
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