How Acts of Kindness Influence Mental Health
Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga
Every year, on November 13th, we celebrate World Kindness Day. The purpose of this unique day is to remind ourselves to treat people with more kindness and consideration. So, have you ever thought about how acts of kindness can influence your mental health? It turns out that being kind not only benefits those who receive it, but it also influences those who give it!
In this blog post, we will investigate how acts of kindness influence mental health to make everything a little better.
Increases the Love Hormone
Kindness brings about the release of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone” or “bonding hormone.” Individual acts of kindness have also been shown to generate new neural connections and release oxytocin and endorphins. According to data from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, just thinking about compassion and kindness activates the brain’s emotional regulation system (Mathers, 2016). That is why oxytocin has been linked to emotional closeness, trust, and affectionate feelings. For example, simply hugging a friend or family member can cause the release of oxytocin, making you feel more emotionally connected to them. They will also feel a lot better if you do this; even if they aren’t particularly sad or worried, a hug can go a long way to make someone feel cared for.
Improves Self Esteem
Kindness can help you feel better about yourself. More importantly, seeing how good an impact your acts of kindness have on people will strengthen your belief in your own abilities and worth as a person. Consider the following scenario: You offer to help a friend who is having trouble with schoolwork. You become a source of comfort as well as motivation for them during these difficult moments. Not only will you boost your self-esteem, but your friend will glow with happiness at having you as a friend. This will in turn improve their self-esteem and mental health too!
Kindness has a powerful, scientifically tested ability to support emotional and physical healing. Kindness can be used as a form of natural painkiller. In one study of homeless adults who frequently visited the emergency department, researchers wanted to see if providing compassionate care through trained volunteers made a difference in how frequently these individuals returned for additional emergency visits. According to Redelmeier et al. (1995), patients who received compassionate care had a significantly lower average number of visits per month following intervention. This suggests that when homeless individuals see that they are receiving kind and compassionate treatment, they may be more satisfied with their initial treatment and not need to return as frequently.
Individuals can develop resilience by being kind to others and receiving kindness in return. This is especially important during difficult times, such as when dealing with loss, illness, or other challenges. Knowing that you can be kind to yourself and others can give you the strength you need to overcome tough times. Beaton et al. (2021), for example, discovered that lower levels of self-compassion in adults with ADHD help to explain the higher levels of ill being (depression, anxiety, and stress) and lower levels of wellbeing (psychological, emotional, and social wellbeing) associated with ADHD. Furthermore, they have proposed that increasing one’s kindness to oneself could be used to support resilience and coping for those with ADHD who face difficulties because of executive function deficits.
Creates Positive Social Connections
According to research, kindness creates positive supportive and meaningful social connections, which in turn reduces stress response and fulfils fundamental, innate needs that are important for longevity and well-being (Fryburg, 2022). Simple gestures such as complimenting a coworker on their work can help to establish these kinds of connections. Furthermore, it has been discovered that even a few minutes of practising techniques such as loving-kindness meditation enhanced feelings of social connection and a positive attitude toward strangers (Hutcherson et al., 2008).
You now understand that kindness has the power to make life happier and emotionally fulfilling as well as to make yourself more resilient by increasing oxytocin levels, lowering stress levels, creating positive social connections, and much more! So, as we celebrate World Kindness Day, keep in mind that including kindness in your daily life can bring you and others happiness.
- Beaton, D. M., Sirois, F., & Milne, E. (2022). The role of self-compassion in the mental health of adults with ADHD. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 78(12), 2497–2512. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.23354
- Fryburg, D. A. (2022). Kindness as a stress reduction–health promotion intervention: a review of the psychobiology of caring. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 16(1), 89-100. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1559827620988268
- Hutcherson, C. A., Seppala, E. M., & Gross, J. J. (2008). Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 8(5), 720–724. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0013237
- Mathers, N. (2016). Compassion and the science of kindness: Harvard Davis Lecture 2015. The British Journal of General Practice, 66(648), 525–527. https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp16X686041
- Redelmeier, D. A., Molin, J. P., & Tibshirani, R. J. (1995). A randomised trial of compassionate care for the homeless in an emergency department. Lancet, 345(8958), 1131–1134. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(95)90975-3
7 Reasons Why Going to Therapy is Beneficial
Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga
In today’s hectic world, going to therapy has become a popular option for those seeking to enhance their mental health. However, you should know that therapy isn’t just necessary for those with mental health challenges; it also provides several benefits for people looking to improve their overall well-being. There are different reasons why going to therapy might be beneficial, whether you’re facing specific issues such as exam stress or simply trying to improve your relationship satisfaction.
So, let us look at 7 reasons why going to therapy is beneficial, and how it may help you feel more fulfilled in life.
1. Treating mental health challenges
One of the most important benefits of going to therapy is treating mental health challenges. Therapy can help treat a lot of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and more. It provides people with coping strategies and tools to help them enhance their emotional well-being. Major life transitions might also have an impact on our mental health. Whether it is a job loss, the end of a romantic relationship, or the death of a loved one, it is always a good idea to have someone to talk to as you begin your journey towards healing.
2. A good start for self-exploration
Therapy promotes self-reflection and awareness. It allows you to dig further into your ideas, feelings, and behaviours, and helps to gain more understanding of yourself. For example, with the help of a therapist, you can find out what causes your stress or anger, or what makes you joyful and at ease. This can lead towards a happy life! Not only that but going to therapy can help you set clear goals because the therapist will guide and motivate you throughout your life path.
3. Developing good coping strategies
Coping strategies help people in dealing with stress and unpleasant emotions in their life. However, not all coping techniques are beneficial; there are adaptive and maladaptive coping strategies. Exercising, journaling, talking with a friend, watching your favourite TV show, going for a 10-minute walk are examples of adaptive coping strategies. Anger outbursts, self-harm, drug use, and isolation are all examples of maladaptive coping strategies. So, with the guidance of a therapist, you can learn how to develop good coping strategies in a healthy and safe environment.
4. Improving communication skills
Therapy can help you learn how to communicate in a healthy, effective, and positive manner. Being able to properly communicate means that you can successfully manage almost all aspects of your life. Therefore, with the help of a therapist you can learn how to establish healthy relationship boundaries, communicate your wants clearly, and assertively demand the things you want from people. This is especially important for couples because it allows them to build up their communication and conflict resolution skills, allowing them to grow together and overcome hurdles.
5. Allows for behaviour modification
Our behaviours, like the thoughts we have, can be extremely damaging, not only to ourselves but also to people around us. They might make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships, think positively, and live a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps you struggle with substance abuse, binge eating, unsafe sexual practices, suspecting your partner for no apparent reason, or self-sabotage. Whatever it is, therapy can help you change the way you behave and make better decisions.
6. Enhanced productivity
We sometimes struggle to focus on one thing, whether at school, work, or in any other aspect of our lives. For example, maybe you are not happy with your job and do not want to go to work anymore. Or you can’t stay focused on work for more than 10 minutes! Whatever it is, therapy can help you understand and prioritise what you need to do in order to be productive. Your therapist can help you regain control of your life by making a daily task schedule, breaking down the job into smaller parts, or using more advanced approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
7. Improves your physical health
Most of us don’t know this, but there is a close link between mental and physical health. This means that therapy can also improve your physical health. For example, therapy can teach you how to handle stress, which can lead to better sleep, lower blood pressure, and a more powerful immune system. This, in turn, lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, inflammatory diseases and much more! And adopting healthy behaviours, such as exercising regularly, eating a nutritious diet, and so on, will also greatly improve your physical health.
You now understand that going to therapy has a lot of benefits. It can help with all aspects of life, not just mental health. Going to therapy, whether for a specific life challenge or simply to grow as a person, may be a transformative experience. Which is why you should give it a try at least once in your life to experience the benefits for yourself.
Geriatric Well-being: Addressing the Needs of the Ageing Population
Written by: Sabeeha Azmi
With an ageing population worldwide, geriatric mental well-being is an interesting and important area on the rise. The well-being of older adults deserves awareness, attention, and care as it affects their quality of life significantly. The World Health Organization reports that by 2050, the number of individuals 60 and over is expected to double, reaching a whopping 2.1 billion individuals. Such a demographic shift suggests that the prevalence of issues related to mental health and well-being amongst the older population will also rise. Older individuals are impacted by unique challenges such as cognitive decline, dementia, social isolation, physical health factors, and common issues such as anxiety and depression, rendering them a vulnerable population that requires support and care.
Giving priority to the mental health and well-being of older individuals is important for several crucial reasons:
Overall Quality of Life: As older individuals often face loneliness, indecisiveness, and doubt after retirement, addressing these issues can greatly improve their well-being and overall quality of life. Providing appropriate care can help older adults better navigate challenging times and improve their relationships and daily functioning.
Improving Physical Health: It is widely known that individuals’ mental health is interconnected with their physical health. If mental health issues are left untreated, it can exacerbate chronic and physical conditions which then could lead to poorer health outcomes.
Social Engagement: Staying engaged with communities and taking part in activities is important for older adults. By addressing and receiving care, older adults can stay active within society, reducing the chances of experiencing social isolation and disengagement.
When it comes to geriatric mental health, it can often be met with stigma, and problems faced are often simply explained as a natural part of ageing, which could discourage individuals from seeking help. Therefore, strategies must be employed to promote the mental well-being of older adults:
Raising Awareness: Older adults, their families, healthcare providers, and the general public must be educated about how necessary it is to pay attention to mental health in ageing. Workshops, public campaigns, open discussions, and other means can be used to educate and inform about common geriatric issues, how and where older individuals can reach out for support, and how families, caregivers, and the public can help and care for older adults.
Better Access to Resources: It is essential to ensure that there are easily accessible and affordable mental health services for older adults to make use of. These services should be inclusive to older adults regardless of their socioeconomic status or their location.
Supportive Communities: Older adults are also a part of communities even if their interactions and contributions may be reduced, hence, creating communities that are age-friendly and that facilitate social engagement and inclusion for older adults can be a great way to improve and support their mental well-being.
Geriatric mental health and well-being are often overlooked but their care is equally important and deserves attention. As we navigate an ageing population, we must address the challenges and issues experienced by this demographic, promote and provide better access to mental health care for them, and break the stigma around geriatric mental health to create and enhance the quality of life and ensure that they receive the care and support that is needed.
Success or Failure? Academic Pressure
Written by: Pansiluni Hasanjana Weerawansa
In a world that’s relentlessly on the move, where productivity is praised above all else, the pressure to excel in academics has never been higher. Students find themselves navigating a maze of assignments, exams, and extracurricular activities, all while trying to maintain a facade of unwavering strength. In the relentless pursuit of academic success, the importance of mental health is often overlooked or, worse yet, stigmatised. Instead of acknowledging mental health as valid medical issues that require professional help, they are frequently perceived as personal deficiencies or indications of vulnerability. As a result, individuals dealing with psychological distress face isolation, bias, and diminished educational and career opportunities.
Consider a bustling college campus, with students hurrying to classes and engaging in countless discussions – a place that symbolises the quest for knowledge and academic achievement. However, beneath this exterior, an unseen struggle is taking place, hidden behind the masks of smiles and achievements. Students, regardless of their accomplishments, often grapple with inner struggles that jeopardise their educational path.
In recent years, the prevalence of mental health concerns among students has surged to concerning levels. The relentless pressure to excel academically, combined with the inherent challenges of personal growth and development, has created an environment ripe for the emergence of anxiety, depression, and various other mental health disorders. However, what’s even more distressing is the prevailing culture of silence that envelops many students, driven by the deeply ingrained fear of societal judgement that surrounds seeking help for mental health issues.
Instead of being regarded as a fundamental component of overall well-being, mental health is often dismissed or, worse still, stigmatised within the confines of academic circles. This stigma manifests in a multitude of ways, ranging from disparaging remarks and the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes to the establishment of systemic obstacles that impede individuals from accessing the crucial care they require.
A particularly pervasive misconception is the notion that seeking assistance for mental health concerns equates to admitting vulnerability or weakness. This erroneous belief frequently serves as a formidable barrier, deterring students from reaching out to qualified counsellors or therapists when their need for support is most acute. Consequently, these students attempt to navigate their mental health struggles in solitude, a choice that often exacerbates their conditions, subsequently leading to a decline in academic performance.
Furthermore, students may fear the judgement and discrimination they could face if their mental health issues become public knowledge. This fear of discrimination can hinder their willingness to disclose their struggles to professors, peers, or academic advisors, resulting in a lack of understanding and accommodation.
The intricate interplay between mental well-being and academic achievement cannot be denied. A student’s mental health profoundly impacts their capacity to concentrate, learn, and excel in their studies. When mental health takes a hit, the pursuit of academic success often transforms into an arduous uphill battle.
Consider a scenario where a student grapples with severe anxiety. Mundane tasks like attending classes, taking exams, or engaging in group discussions can morph into insurmountable challenges. This heightened anxiety often results in increased absenteeism, diminished focus, and dwindling motivation, ultimately casting a shadow over their academic performance.
Depression, another prevalent mental health concern among students, drains their vitality and enthusiasm. A perpetual sense of sadness, coupled with a disinterest in academic pursuits, often leads to subpar academic performance.
To mitigate academic stress and the resulting mental health concerns, a comprehensive approach involving various stakeholders is essential. Here are four effective methods to tackle this issue:
1. It is imperative for educational institutions to re-examine their curriculum and evaluation methods to mitigate the excessive academic pressures. Promoting a more reasonable approach to education, one that values not only academic accomplishments but also personal well-being, can assist students in more effectively handling stress.
2. The incorporation of mental health education into the curriculum is crucial. Mental health is rarely brought up in classrooms and the vast majority of students are oblivious and unable to cope with their mental issues. Teaching students about stress management, coping techniques, and the significance of seeking assistance when necessary can empower them to actively manage their mental health.
3. Offering flexible deadlines and being supportive to students can also be useful. For example, extended deadlines, tutoring services, and access to academic counselling allow students to seek aid when they encounter academic challenges without feeling overwhelmed.
4. Establishing peer mentorship programs, where senior/trained students provide guidance and assistance to their peers facing academic obstacles or mental health issues, can cultivate a nurturing environment conducive to seeking help and sharing experiences.
Implementing these strategies enables educational institutions to prioritise both academic achievement and mental well-being. This shift can alleviate the stressors contributing to students’ mental health challenges. Instead of perpetuating a culture that places academic accomplishments above well-being, it’s time for a reevaluation of our values. Academic institutions should aim to create an environment where students can excel academically and thrive emotionally, acknowledging that mental health struggles can impact anyone, irrespective of their accomplishments.
Rather than stigmatising those seeking assistance, we should commend their courage. In doing so, we can cultivate a society where academic success and mental well-being go hand in hand, empowering individuals to realise their full potential.
In summary, students grappling with mental health issues while pursuing academic success should not bear their burdens in silence. We must acknowledge the significance of mental health in both personal and academic well-being, eradicating the stigma associated with it. By embracing this perspective, we can wholeheartedly support students in their educational journey and aid them in achieving the success they rightly deserve.
Parenting with a Focus on Children’s Mental Health
Written by: Zafra Aswar Ali
Parenting is a responsibility like no other, combining both joyous and overwhelming experiences. Parents always wish the best for their children intending to raise healthy and happy children. However, certain actions can knowingly or unknowingly be perceived by children incorrectly and detrimentally affect their mental well-being. Therefore, children’s mental health should be given priority like their physical health because both are vital for their overall development process.
First and foremost, let us look at four widely accepted parenting styles that can impact the mental health of children in various ways.
1. Authoritarian Style
This type of parenting is considered unhealthy because children are expected to follow the rules made by their parents without any questioning. For example, if a child is disobedient, he or she is severely punished without any prior communication or explanation. Moreover, they are pressured to do well in their academics and other extracurricular activities and get blamed for the simplest of mistakes without any appropriate guidance.
Hence, this parenting style is viewed as toxic because, despite getting the child to be obedient, the consequences are often unpleasant. Children who experience that kind of parenting grow up with problems with their self-esteem and the sense of being undervalued which can lead to anxiety and depression.
2. Authoritative Style
Even in this parenting style, parents create a set of rules and have high expectations from their children. However, such parents are quite democratic in this regard because children are granted the freedom to voice out their opinions, ask questions, and share how they feel by maintaining a healthy and strong bond with their parents unlike in the authoritative style. Apart from that, these parents guide children with constructive criticism and are much more forgiving when their children make any mistake.
This parenting style is the most recommended as children from this kind of parenting grow up to be happy and successful with enhanced self-esteem.
3. Permissive Style
Parents following this parenting style display a lack of guidance for immoral behaviours and dislike establishing a clear set of rules, while not expecting much from their children. As a result, children may face issues with authority and perform poorly in school. Furthermore, such children are reported to be less happy and encounter difficulties in self-regulation with a risk of developing anxiety and depression.
On the flip side, parents with this parenting style are comparatively communicative and behave with their children as a friend more than a parent.
4. Uninvolved Style
Parents with this parenting style spend little to no time with their children and are less interested in their children’s activities although their basic needs are fulfilled. Thus, such children may display immoral and antisocial behaviours – lacking self-control and self-esteem when they grow up because of the absence of guidance from their parents. Ultimately, their future relationships are at risk due to the fear of being abandoned.
Now let us explore some parenting approaches that parents can follow during the upbringing of their children with a better focus on their children’s mental well-being.
Paying undivided attention to your children when they communicate with you can undoubtedly help create a healthy relationship with them. Once you start listening to them actively, they will feel valued and have no hesitation to share any information. Remember to maintain eye contact and of course, avoid interrupting them while they talk.
Allow them to express their emotions
Creating a safe space for your children to express their emotions without being judged is a crucial aspect of their upbringing. So, always validate how they feel, whether they are angry, happy, or sad, and handle them empathetically.
Create a supportive environment
Beyond validating their emotions, it is also vital to ensure that they feel safe and nurtured in the home environment. This would enable them to augment their mental well-being because of the unconditional love and support they gain.
Set realistic expectations
Pressurising your children to attain a particular level of success in their academic and extracurricular activities is an unhealthy method of parenting. Instead, as parents you must teach your children the importance of progress over perfection and motivate them to do better every day as human beings.
Teach coping strategies
This is another effective strategy to boost the mental health of your children. Encouraging them to cope with their negative emotions by journaling, meditation, or simple breathing techniques would be beneficial in the long run.
Reduce screen time
Spending too much time on smart devices can have negative consequences on both the physical and mental health of your children. Therefore, limit their screen time and push them to engage in various physical activities including any sports activity, or simply take them for a walk. In addition, encourage them to build social relationships as it plays a major role in emotional development.
With that being said, useful online activities must also be given preference. Tools such as parental controls can be made use of while granting them access to content suitable only for their age category without it being a disruption to other offline activities.
Reach out to a professional when necessary
Regardless of applying suitable parenting techniques, certain behavioural or emotional issues pertaining to mental health such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, and learning disabilities cannot be addressed by yourself. In that case, seek assistance from a mental health professional without any delay and do the needful.
There is no right or wrong way of parenting because of the unique situations in each household and a parenting style alone cannot determine a child’s growth. Nevertheless, parenting is a journey full of ups and downs that require high levels of commitment, empathy, and most importantly patience. Therefore, as parents, be mindful of practising healthy parenting approaches that would enhance your children’s mental well-being – specifically by paying attention to their needs, as each child is unique in their own way.
How to Navigate the Psychological Challenges of Moving Abroad?
Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga
Are you planning to move abroad soon for higher education, a new job, or for another personal reason? If you said yes, this post is for you!
Moving abroad can be a life-changing experience because it opens up many possibilities. However, it may cause many psychological challenges that can be very stressful if not handled appropriately.
Many people are unaware of the emotional impact of leaving familiar surroundings and adjusting to a new culture. It can make you wonder if you made the right decision and whether the change was worth it.
That’s why we wrote this article just for you, to help you get ready for whatever comes next. So, let us take a look at the psychological challenges of moving abroad and a few tips for navigating them.
1. Prepare yourself mentally for moving abroad
Not preparing yourself mentally for moving abroad can be one of the reasons which inhibits your ability to accept change. Mental preparation may include reading a bit about the country you are planning to go to, including its customs, traditions, way of life, and even the weather and if there are any seasonal weather changes. This helps to reduce the culture shock because now you already know what to expect when you are there.
Also, it won’t be easy to accept everything all at once. Know that you are only human and it takes time to process things.
Especially when going abroad from Sri Lanka, the Western culture and way of life can come as quite a surprise to us. So, don’t expect the new country to feel like home in a few weeks, sometimes it may take months and that’s okay!
You can also prepare mentally by learning the language of the country you are planning to go to. While most of the countries speak English, not everyone does. So be ready with at least a few phrases in the local language to facilitate basic conversation.
Sneha is a 25-year-old girl from Sri Lanka who secured a job in Japan. Before moving to Japan, she thought of learning about some basic Japanese language skills, and also about the customs and traditions in Japan. So, during her research, she found that rules related to greeting, bowing, and gift-giving were very different to Sri Lanka which might be overwhelming for her.
2. Know that it is normal to experience culture shock
Culture shock is a common psychological challenge that occurs in many people moving abroad as a result of having to adapt to a culture that is significantly different from their own or from a culture that they have adapted to over time. This challenge is completely normal and is an essential part of the adaptation process for the new country.
Being a little open-minded and accepting that things are going to be different from what you see back home will take you a long way in the adaptation process. Think of it like this – sometimes foreigners get culture shock when they find out people eat with their hands or that public display of affection is restricted after visiting Sri Lanka, but they adjust and adapt according to the local culture. So, it goes both ways!
The good part about being open-minded is that you get to immerse yourself in the local culture, as well as new and unique experiences that you will cherish later, when you learn about other countries’ customs and traditions. If you still find it difficult, try to connect with other people from your country who are also new to the country you moved to. Then share your experiences and feelings with them. You will find that you are not alone and that they may be experiencing similar feelings as you.
Thejan is a 30-year-old boy from Sri Lanka who moved to London to do his Master’s Degree in Software Engineering. Although he was fluent in English, he experienced difficulties understanding what his fellow batchmates and professors were saying at the university. This happened because Thejan could not understand some accents, dialects and slangs in the UK as a non-native speaker. However, Thejan asked his friends to help him with the nuances of the local way that English was spoken and even took spoken language lessons from YouTube without being worried about it. And after about six months, he was completely fine with understanding everyone!
3. Find healthy ways to cope with loneliness
Moving abroad means that loneliness will hit you because you are leaving behind your family and friends. Just know that while loneliness is a common feeling encountered when moving abroad, the key thing to do is find healthy ways to cope with it.
Socialising with your friends abroad at least once a week is a great way to get out of loneliness. You can also join university clubs or societies if you move abroad for higher studies. Joining a gym can also inject some. Or else, you can do some jogging, swimming, or even yoga! It can even be simple things like reading a book, re-watching your favourite TV show, and listening to music.
You can also personalise your space (bedroom, study area, etc.) to feel like home. Maybe photographs of your family and friends would be a great addition!
Dinara is a 28-year-old girl who moved to Canada with her husband. However, after moving abroad she deeply missed family and friends. Sometimes she would get so sad, skip meals, and lay in bed all day. She didn’t even want to go to work. She would always ask her husband whether they could move back to Sri Lanka. To understand and work on her feelings of loneliness, she decided to go to a therapist. After a while, she understood that moving to Canada was a great opportunity for both herself and her husband. She also joined a dance class (it was her passion) and found some great friends through that to hang out with on the weekends! She also scheduled video calls daily with her family and close friends back home so that she could keep up with what was going on in their lives.
Now that you know how to navigate the psychological challenges of moving abroad, remember that adjusting to a new country takes time and it’s okay to struggle at first. You have to be patient with yourself. If you feel like it is taking a toll on you, talk to your family or friends, and seek professional assistance from a therapist. And the challenges are not going to be there forever. Storms surely pass! So, cheers to exciting possibilities and thrilling adventures in a new country!
A Canvas for Healing: The Impact of Art on Mental Health
Written by: Sabeeha Azmi
Communicating emotions and experiences through art has always been a powerful platform for human expression. Art transcends the boundaries of language and culture and propels creativity and freedom. Along with the appeal and aesthetics of art, it has also been acknowledged for its profound and insightful impact on mental health. Let’s look at how we can engage with art to inculcate a positive influence on our mental well-being.
The act of creating art can be exceptionally empowering and a cathartic process, whether you are painting, drawing, sculpting, or simply scribbling around on paper. Any form of artistic expression can offer an individual a sense of control and achievement which can boost self-confidence and self-esteem. Art provides a safe haven to open yourself to experiment, make mistakes, and learn from your mistakes and through it all foster resilience and flexibility to face life’s challenges thrown your way.
Engaging in art can be used to reduce stress and anxiety and create a space of mindfulness. As you immerse yourself in your art and its process, you are fully absorbed and focused on the present moment, which allows you to temporarily disengage with worries and anxieties. As you create a flow through your art, it can be deeply calming, promoting emotional balance and relaxation. Try this out with simple colouring, grab yourself a pattern, and lose yourself in the colours and peacefulness this simple act of colouring brings you.
Art is a bridge for self-reflection and communication as it is sometimes easier for us to relay complex emotions and experiences through symbolic and visual representations rather than through words. One’s art becomes their self-expression and allows a platform to share what might be hard to articulate verbally and this facilitates conversations about mental health with other individuals as well. Being able to see one’s own art can also provide insights into your emotional state that you might not be conscious of, and this empowers self-awareness and growth.
Further, art can foster a sense of community and bring people together. Partaking in art workshops, exhibitions, classes or even just gathering to create art together can provide opportunities to connect and interact with like-minded individuals with a passion for creativity and inspiration. This sense of community and togetherness can combat feelings of loneliness or isolation which can be common trials for individuals struggling with their mental well-being. Sharing your art can be an avenue for building understanding and empathy among diverse communities.
Art is also used as a therapeutic tool to support individuals in managing their mental well-being. Art therapy is used widely by mental health professionals to promote emotional healing, insight, and self-awareness by channelling their thoughts, experiences, and emotions into art.
Creating art is an empowering experience that allows individuals to affirm their identity, reclaim their narratives, and stand up to social stigmas associated with mental health. Expressing and sharing art is a way of advocating for mental health and expressing the need for change in an impactful and unique way.
Art offers a canvas for healing and self-expression and the therapeutic benefits of engaging with art are open to everyone, whether you are a professional artist or you simply like to doodle on paper. So, pick up that brush or that pencil and see the magic of art transform your mental health journey. Let’s get drawing!
The Impact of Diet and Nutritional Choices on Mood, Cognitive Function, and Overall Mental Well-Being
Written by: Zafra Aswar Ali
In this current, bustling era, learning about the type of food we consume and how it has an impact on our well-being has become of utmost importance. Specifically, the pieces of evidence that reveal the connection between diet and the risk of developing common mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression are innumerable. As a result, this has led to the emergence of nutritional psychology which is an evolving discipline that aims to study the effect of food on mental well-being. Therefore, whatever food choices we make, we need to ensure that they are beneficial to not only our physical health but also to our mental well-being. Because what we eat and drink has a significant influence in determining our behaviours, feelings, and thought processes.
Let us explore the connection between diet and health by looking at the results of making conscious food choices in achieving a better state of mental well-being.
The Gut-Brain Axis
The connection between the gut and the central nervous system is one of the important aspects of understanding the relationship between food choices and mental health. This is a bi-directional communication network between the gut and the brain, connected via a system of chemicals, hormones, and neurons. Furthermore, it comprises the microbiome which is the collection of microbes inclusive of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and their genes that naturally exist in our bodies.
According to research, these microbes affect the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, the level of inflammation, and brain structure. Hence, the food we consume can have a direct impact on determining the state of our mental health. To improve mental health, incorporating fermented food and fibre-rich food into your diet is highly recommended as they encourage the growth of beneficial microbes.
Nutrition and Mood
The choices of food we make can undoubtedly affect our mood and providentially certain foods can enhance the mood such as fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds that are enriched in omega-3 fatty acids. These foods have been proven to reduce depression and improve mood. Likewise, whole grains and legumes rich in complex carbohydrates increase the production of the neurotransmitter – serotonin which is connected to promoting a positive mood.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet has been introduced by focusing on the dietary patterns of the Mediterranean region. It is inclusive of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, legumes, healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, and seeds. According to research studies, following a diet that contains these foods aids in lowering the risk of depression and anxiety as well as cognitive impairment. Thus, the Mediterranean diet has gained attention in terms of the benefits it has on both physical and mental health.
The Role of Micronutrients
Vitamins and minerals are the main types of micronutrients that are vital in not only maintaining good physical health but also aiding optimum brain functioning. In terms of vitamins, the B vitamins like folate, B6, and B12 that are present mainly in animal products, fortified cereals, leafy greens, and legumes play a significant role in reducing the risk of developing depression and cognitive decline. Vitamin D that can be acquired even from morning sunlight has a similar impact on mental well-being.
In addition to these vitamins, minerals such as magnesium and zinc present in nuts and seeds, eggs, and certain vegetables and fruits can potentially reduce stress levels.
Sugar and Processed Food
Consuming food that contains high levels of sugar as well as processed food has detrimental effects on mental health, increasing the risk of developing depression and anxiety. Additionally, such foods can drastically increase the level of blood sugar which in turn leads to the development of various mood disorders. Therefore, processed food and food with high sugar levels must be avoided.
The diet and nutritional choices we make can significantly affect our mood, cognition, and overall mental health emphasising the fact that food choices must be made cautiously to avoid dangerous repercussions as it is not limited to physical health only. Hence, we must be mindful of investing in a balanced diet that includes the necessary amounts of nutrients and less sugar levels as a healthy body leads to a healthy mind and assists in upholding a physically and mentally balanced lifestyle.
The Significance of Empathy in Fostering Mental Well-being
Written by: Zafra Aswar Ali
Individuals around the world have various ways of coping with their struggles pertaining to their mental health. Some people manage to face and resolve their struggles by themselves, while others tend to also seek support from other people. Therefore, when an individual requires assistance from either his or her family members, peers, or colleagues, empathy plays a crucial role in dealing with their mental health issues.
Empathy is well-defined as a quality or an ability to understand another individual’s situation emotionally from his or her perspective by imagining oneself in that state. It can be divided into two namely; emotional empathy and cognitive empathy. Emotional empathy is feeling the emotion another person feels, whereas the perception and intellectual capacity of how someone else feels is cognitive empathy, which is a skill that may take a while to develop.
The term empathy is often misunderstood with the term sympathy which is a sense of feeling pity about how someone else may feel and is rather a superficial connection built with one another when compared to being empathetic. Even though both terminologies share the suffix -pathy (meaning ‘emotion’, ‘feeling’, or ‘suffering’), the major difference between empathy and sympathy is, the former deals with feeling and understanding what someone feels, and the latter does not deal with feeling or understanding another individual similarly. Hence, being sympathetic does not allow one to comprehend another person’s state from his or her point of view.
When the impact of empathy on mental well-being is taken into consideration, it is indeed vital to practice the act of empathy because it renders an opportunity to connect with individuals at a deeper level while listening to their thoughts and feelings, especially if such thoughts and feelings have detrimental effects on their mental well-being. Apart from attempting to resolve others’ problems, cultivating empathy can also be beneficial to oneself in practicing emotional intelligence. Consequently, this would aid in keeping stress at bay by efficaciously managing stressful circumstances.
Although being an empath may seem quite simple, not everyone is aware of implementing it effectively due to misconceptions. As a result, they end up being sympathetic toward someone else’s feelings and offer help out of sympathy, failing to display their sense of empathy.
Therefore, to understand people and their emotions beyond a surface level, developing empathy becomes a necessity, especially for those holding leadership positions in a workplace for instance.
Here are some methods that can be followed to develop empathy:
1. Active listening
One of the foremost factors that would help nurture the quality of empathy is listening. This needs to be done in a non-judgmental manner to the individual who is divulging their feelings This individual therefore becomes better understood and would reveal more information with trust.
2. Try to stay away from biased thoughts
Undoubtedly, all individuals have differences in opinions regarding various aspects. Subsequently, biased thoughts alone could prevent oneself from being empathetic as it is easier to judge another based on stereotypical viewpoints and stigmas. Thus, keeping such biased thoughts aside and analysing someone else’s state solely from their experience can help to become more empathetic.
3. Refer to what they said with empathetic terms
Another key strategy to become an empath is to repeat some words of what another individual would state along with some terms that would denote a sense of empathy such as ‘I understand’. This would potentially allow the individual to feel at ease as well as make corrections if the information is perceived incorrectly.
Empathy is a quality, which is also considered a skill in certain contexts, that is essential when trying to think through what another person is experiencing in terms of their emotions at a deeper level. This in turn enables one to build a rapport that would help analyse the situation better. Additionally, this form of emotional support would assist them to sustain better mental health that cannot be achieved by merely sympathising.