Tag Archives: Reconnecting

Tracking The Maelstrom

When you are coping with mental health problems, it can be difficult to keep track of what helps you and what doesn’t make much difference. You are lost in a maelstrom of symptoms and can’t think clearly. Assessing deterioration and improvement feels impossible.

A simple tool which can help you to decipher your symptoms is tracking your mood. If you have ever had counselling or another type of talking therapy, you may have been given a grid of days and times and asked to make a note of your mood at regular intervals throughout the day. This is helpful, but it can also be a pain in the ass. You forget to fill it in or the grid doesn’t provide enough room for you to record the details you want. You might try it for a couple of weeks to see if you can spot patterns, but it’s hard to integrate it with your life.

The trick to making mood tracking work for you is to adapt the tool. There are apps, for example, which you can use anytime if you download them to your phone. You could also set an alarm on your phone to alert you to track your mood at regular intervals. Or you could go old skool and carry a notebook — this allows you to record as many (or as few) details as you like. You could draw your own grid or just write however you wish.

I use an app called Moodtrack, which is free if you keep your record public and costs 79p if you want them to be private. You can choose your own username, or get the app to generate one for you. If your username doesn’t make it easy for people to identify you, the free app is still pretty anonymous. You simply identify your mood and how positive or negative it is, whenever you want. You can also include an optional comment, so you can record what you are doing and any other possible triggers or reasons for your mood. Sometimes, other users leave supportive comments, but you can obviously ignore them if you don’t wish to interact.

As with most mental health management tools, you should experiment with tracking your mood and discover what works best for you. For instance, some people prefer to note more details than others. My own preferences vary depending on my current mental state: when I feel most depressed I write little or no details, whereas I like to include a lot more information when I’m able to analyse my mood. You should also consider how often you want to record your mood — once an hour might be appropriate if your mood changes frequently and/or you participate in a variety of activities throughout the day, but once every three or four hours is more suitable if your mood is more stable or if you are too busy to update more often. Personally, I find every two to three hours is the most beneficial interval for me.

Mood tracking is so simple that you may question whether it can be helpful, but it helps you to become more aware of the changes in your mood and to live more mindfully. It enables you to spot patterns which are unlikely to emerge when you are lost in the maelstrom of mental illness. If you are sceptical, just give it a try — you might be pleasantly surprised. What have you got to lose? A couple of minutes every few hours. What could you gain? A better understanding of your mental health, which could allow you to manage your symptoms better and possibly recover.

What I Want from 2016

Don’t worry — I won’t bore you by listing all my new year’s resolutions and goals. Many of them are continuations of what I have already been doing, such as trying to live more mindfully, whereas others are about taking a step (or a leap!) forward in my life. As I said in my last post, it’s no use in thinking of the new year as a completely fresh start: your goals need to be built on the foundation of your life as it is now.

That’s why my goals aren’t about transforming my world from January 1st — they need to fit my current lifestyle. Sure, I hope my life will be transformed by my goals, but I believe that permanent change is more likely (and easier) if I change my habits gradually. For me, working towards my goals is about working with my strengths and limitations, not against them.

Like many, many people, one of my main goals for 2016 is to lose weight. Unlike most people, I’m aiming to lose 120lbs. In the past, I have lost weight by restrictive dieting and it has taught me that diets don’t work. Especially not in the long term. So I am changing my lifestyle. This involves changing my eating habits gradually; instead of trying to live on vegetables as soon as the clock struck midnight on 1st January, I have been adjusting what I eat and will continue adjusting until I think my diet is healthy enough.

Another of my goals is to rewrite my novel draft to a good standard. I’m taking this slowly, but aiming to gather pace over the next couple of months. I want to get it done as soon as I can, but I’m not going to beat myself up if my mental health gets in the way. I haven’t set any definite deadlines for this reason: I have to learn to work around my anxiety and depression, instead of getting upset when they prevent me doing things when or how I had intended.

Which brings me to what I want most out of 2016: to get better at managing my mental health and to make progress towards my goals. I want to start 2017 feeling healthier and happier than I do right now. I want to have fun. I want to create art. I want to be stronger. I want to read a lot. I want to watch more films. I want to get outside more. I want to spend time with the people I love. I want to meet new people. I want to save more and stress less. I want to be fitter. I want to be open to opportunities. I want to live.

Oh, and I also want to continue blogging!

How Much of Your Identity is Determined by Your Mental Health?

I don’t think mental illness should ever be your whole identity, but I have to acknowledge that it’s part of my identity. My experiences have contributed to who I am — and many of those experiences were affected or created by my mental health problems. But how much of my identity is determined by my mental health?

And, more to the point, how comfortable am I with the extent to which my identity is determined by my mental health?

The weirdest thing about these considerations is that, against common assumptions, my mental health problems have had some extremely positive effects:

• Hitting rock bottom has made me determined to follow my dreams, especially my goal of earning a living through writing.

• I have more empathy — which means I want to help break down the stigma surrounding mental illness to help others.

• Confronting my mental health problems forced me to build my self-esteem, which means I no longer let anyone treat me like shit.

• I value integrity, creativity and emotional honesty over the things a lot of other people seem to value, like money and status.

• The stagnancy of mental illness persuaded me to embrace change, which has led to me getting my degrees and travelling to places I never thought I’d see.

But, like physical illnesses, mental illnesses leave scars.

I think I will always have the insecurites which are enmeshed in my mental health problems. My anxieties resurface when I least expect them. I know how bad things can get: I know the despair of believing life is not worth living. These are aspects of mental illness that I would not wish on anyone.

So how can I accept these negative aspects of mental illness as part of my identity?

The short answer is because I have no choice. In order to embrace what I have learnt from my mental health problems, I must embrace the negative effects as well as the positive. The difference is, I try to give far more attention to the positive effects.

That is true of everything in life. Every relationship in your life has negative and positive aspects. Every experience you have, ditto. You don’t choose to become mentally ill, but you can choose to learn from your experience of mental illness (once you have recovered enough) and to cultivate the silver linings.

Ultimately, it is impossible to say how much of your identity is determined by your mental health.

It cannot be measured. Your mental health — whether you have always been mentally healthy or if you have had mental health problems — colours all of the other aspects of your identity. The idea of that would have terrified me a decade ago, but I have learnt that I can use my experiences to my advantage. I can use my knowledge of The Dark Side to drive myelf towards a better future. I can enjoy the authentic friendships in my life and minimise contact with the people who treated me badly when I was at my most vulnerable.

You don’t relinquish power by accepting how your mental health has impacted your identity: you gain power.

You move past the shame and anguish which other people project onto you and realise that mental illness is not a personality flaw or a punishment you have brought upon yourself. It is just an illness. It is bound to affect all aspects of your life, just as a serious, long-term physical condition is bound to impact your life.

Am I a different person because I have mental health problems? Yes and no. Mental illness has made me learn more about myself. It has brought different aspects of my personality to the fore. It has encouraged me to explore who I am.

I used to be preoccupied with pleasing other people. I hid my imagination and my intelligence because some people had a problem with them. I paid attention to criticism and ignored praise. I lost confidence and didn’t try new things.

I could have soent my whole life like that, working in a job I didn’t like and wasting my time on unimportant things, but experiencing mental illness led to a change of direction. It changed my priorities. It made me discover my own values.

More than anything, my mental health issues have helped me become the person I always was.

Why Everybody Needs to Talk About Mental Health

  1. We all have mental health. Just as we all have a state of physical health, we have a state of mental health. You might be lucky enough to never have to think about it, because your mental health has been good all your life, but you ought to be aware of your mental health.
  2. Anyone can become mentally ill. As with physical health there are various risk factors, but the bottom line is that nobody is immune. If you are aware of your mental health and discuss it regularly with friends and family, you will be better equipped to realise if/when your mental health is in decline and to take action.
  3. You will get more support if you need it — and can give more support to others. When mental health problems are shrouded with secrecy, it’s difficult for sufferers to get help and support. On the other hand, if everybody talks about mental health in the same way physical health gets discussed openly, it is easier for people with mental illness to express their thoughts and emotions. Instead of suffering in silence and feeling alone, we could connect with other people.
  4. There is nothing shameful about mental illness, but not discussing it implies otherwise. Secrets always have connotations of shame. Even if you are not ashamed of your mental health problems, refusing to talk about them creates a wall of silence that makes it harder for everyone to discuss mental illness — even when they want to talk about their experiences. Talking about mental health doesn’t mean you have to expose every symptom and facet of yourself; just as you can talk about your physical health without going into the details, you can talk about mental health in as much (or as little) detail as you wish.
  5. It’s the only way to end the stigma. To stop people with mental health problems feeling ashamednd isolated, we all need to talk about mental health. To stop prejudice against people with mental illness, we all need to talk about it.  To educate people and break down their ignorance about mental health, everybody needs to talk about mental health.

Reads to Rewrite Your Life 6: Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is an exploration of the state of flow, which occurs when you are challenged by an activity but feel skilled enough to negotiate the tasks involved without arousing anxiety. Flow is most easily recognised by its characteristic effect: a feeling of timelessness. It’s difficult to describe, but everybody has experienced flow. Think about all the times you have been lost in an activity, unaware of anything else around you except what the activity requires.

A flow state can be achieved while performing a wide variety of activities. Reading and writing are common flow activities for me, but I can also achieve the state while running, doing Sudoku puzzles and drawing. Other people have experienced flow through activities such as gardening, horse riding, wood carving, debating, dancing, knitting, cooking, rock climbing… The list is extensive! The main distinction between flow activities and leisure activities which don’t induce a state of flow is that the former involves a high level of engagement, whereas the latter may be a largely passive experience. For example: when you are watching a film which challenges you intellectually so that you are constantly interpreting the images and sound, you may enter a state of flow. In contrast, if you are watching a film which is enjoyable but not stimulating, you may experience pleasure but you won’t experience flow.

Flow explains the intricacies of the flow state, backed up by Csikszentmihalyi’s research, and provides instruction for cultivating flow. People who experience more flow in their lives are happier. In addition to flow being an enjoyable and satisfying state in itself, flow activities tend to result in achievements and improved skills. The activities which are most conducive to flow tend to be personal passions, which help to create meaning in life. By cultivating flow, you will improve multiple aspects of your life.

Part of the beauty of flow is that it’s nothing new and anyone can achieve a flow state, but Csikszentmihalyi’s book acts as a catalyst. It’s useful for people with mental health problems, especially depression, who have lost their sense of purpose and gain less joy from life than they would like. I first read it during a challenging point in my life and I realised that flow could offer a way out; cultivating flow became part of my treatment plan. Flow activities removed me from the misery I was experiencing and helped me, over a long period of time, find meaning in my life.

 

About the Reads to Rewrite Your Life series

This series discusses books which have helped to change my perspective on life. Many will be self-help guides, some will be classics and others will be a little different… I aim to provide an eclectic mix to inspire everyone, regardless of whether or not you have mental health issues.

  1. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway – Susan Jeffers
  2. Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking – Susan Cain
  3. The How of Happiness – Sonja Lyubomirsky
  4. The Art of Non Conformity – Chris Guillebeau
  5. Wherever You Go, There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn
  6. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  7. Undoing Depression – Richard O’Connor

Reads to Rewrite Your Life 5: Wherever You Go, There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn is a comprehensive guide to living more mindfully and making space in your life for meditation. It’s great for beginners, but is also valuable for those who are more experienced in mindfulness meditation. It’s simply written, without being condescending or over-explaining. I don’t use the book every time I meditate, but I return to it time after time for inspiration, clarification or guidance.

Mindfulness meditation is about being in the moment, as opposed to thinking about what you need to do or what has already happened. You might be so caught up in your thoughts that you don’t realise you’re doing it, which is why certain thought patterns are hard to stop and breaking them is an essential strategy for achieving good mental health. Mindfulness teaches you to be aware of your thoughts without getting trapped inside of them.

There are a huge variety of meditations and I am yet to try every single one, but those I have tried are all useful and I have several favourites. Wherever You Go is more of a reference book than your typical self-help guide, despite being easy and enjoyable to read. Because it is centred on practising mindfulness meditation, you will often find yourself impelled to stop reading and start meditating – which is no bad thing!

Since I began making an effort to be more mindful, I find it easier to stop letting negative thoughts run amok and control me. I am, in general, calmer and happier. I have also found that mindfulness helps me to employ other strategies to improve my mental health; I benefit more from using the CBT techniques I learnt in counselling and can use self-care skills more effectively. It’s a pretty powerful weapon to have in your arsenal because mindfulness influences every part of your life.

If you are interested in dabbling in mindfulness meditation, this book is an excellent starting point. It will guide you through your first attempts, when it feels impossible to get past the chatter of your mind, and help you to live more mindfully. Mindfulness is a practice: there is no stopping point where you have reached the pinnacle of mindfulness. Wherever You Go is not the kind of book you grow out of or move past – think of it as a lifelong companion in your endeavours.

 

About the Reads to Rewrite Your Life series

This series discusses books which have helped to change my perspective on life. Many will be self-help guides, some will be classics and others will be a little different… I aim to provide an eclectic mix to inspire everyone, regardless of whether or not you have mental health issues.

  1. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway – Susan Jeffers
  2. Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking – Susan Cain
  3. The How of Happiness – Sonja Lyubomirsky
  4. The Art of Non Conformity – Chris Guillebeau
  5. Wherever You Go, There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn
  6. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  7. Undoing Depression – Richard O’Connor

Should You Get a Pet to Help Depression?

I will start by pointing out the obvious: hoping to help depression should never be the only reason to get a pet. I’m also assuming that you like animals, are capable of looking after a pet and are looking for other benefits of pet ownership, like companionship. It’s also preferable to rescue a pet from a shelter, but I refuse to judge anyone who buys pets from responsible breeders. I’m assuming that readers would also take practicalities like finance and work hours into account when deciding whether to have a pet and when deciding on which type or breed of animal to get. However, this post is not about the pros and cons of pets in general – it’s about pets and depression.

There is considerable proof that pets are good for mental health. There are groups who arrange to take dogs (and sometimes other animals) into hospitals and residential homes because interacting with animals has many benefits for humans. Every so often, you will come across news reports saying that a new study has discovered that people with pets are happier/less stressed/in better mental health. There is also the intuitive feeling, present in all animal lovers, that having a pet will improve your life.

Full disclosure: although I had wanted my own dog since I was a very young child, a major reason for my getting one was that I thought it would help my depression. Which is why I feel qualified to write this post.

The most important thing to bear in mind is that a pet is not a miracle cure. You can’t expect a cute puppy to dramatically improve your mental health overnight. You should also consider that the responsibility of pet ownership puts a lot of pressure on you, which can be detrimental to your mental health. I advise anyone with mental health problems to ensure that they have a strong support network in place before they think about getting a pet. If your mental illness worsens, who will look after the pet? In my case, I live with my parents and could rely on them for practical and emotional support.

In my experience, receiving the unconditional love of a dog is invaluable. Taking care of my dog, Roxie, gave my life a sense of purpose and – in the long term – boosted my self-esteem. During the darkest times, she gave me a reason to live. But there were still dark times. Roxie did not cure my depression. She improved my life in general, but the effects on my mental health are difficult to determine.

When she died in September 2013, the day before her 10th birthday, my mental health was better than it had been since I was a young child, but Roxie can’t take all the credit: antidepressants, drama therapy, a depression group and great friends all helped. I was devastated by her death, but strong enough to cope. If she had died when she was much younger and my depression was worse, I dread to think what might have happened. That’s something else to bear in mind when you consider getting a pet: you will have to deal with their death.

I can’t, in all conscience, recommend getting a pet as an effective way of helping depression or any other mental illness. But neither can I say it’s a terrible idea. Just over a month after Roxie’s unexpected death, I got a puppy – another springer spaniel, in fact. While my mental health has improved enough to make me less reliant on my dog as a reason to live, he certainly forces me to make positive changes in my life. Even having to leave the house every day to walk him means a lot – especially when I faced my anxiety and took him out by myself earlier this year, something I had not done since Roxie was young. He is sweet and very affectionate, which makes me feel loved and valued. When I wake up or come home from somewhere, he is ecstatic to see me. These things mean a lot.

In conclusion, pets can have positive effects on your mental health – but that should be just one of many considerations. Don’t decide on a whim; take your time planning and researching. Discuss the idea with people close to you. Borrow someone else’s pet to see how you get on. Above all, never set out with high expectations when you get a pet – it’s not fair on the pet and it’s not fair on you.

Learning to Be Vulnerable

A lot of our fears and anxieties centre on one key fear: that of exposing ourselves. No, I don’t mean literal nakedness – that’s a cinch compared to what I’m talking about, emotional vulnerability. It’s natural to keep our emotions, feelings and thoughts hidden; in many circumstances, revealing them does leave you vulnerable to harm. From an evolutionary viewpoint, revealing fear is dangerous and exposes you to predators. It makes sense for a caveman to pretend he is fearless and act aggressively when faced with a sabre-toothed tiger. It’s a sensible approach in some circumstances nowadays, especially when you can’t trust the people around you. However, in some situations it is better to show your vulnerability.

It’s essential to let your close friends and family see that you can be vulnerable. It’s exhausting to pretend to be confident and self-assured 24/7 and does no favours for the people you care about, who may feel that they can’t show their own vulnerability. It’s natural to feel fear, doubt, shame, sadness, embarrassment, anger, disappointment, etc. By expressing these emotions in an appropriate manner, you teach others that their own feelings are validated and that they can deal with them.

On a wider scale, you are vulnerable whenever you take a risk that exposes you to potential criticism. You aren’t in any physical danger, yet you might get hurt emotionally. However, the alternative is to never take this type of risk; to stagnate. This is particularly pertinent when it comes to your career: success in most fields depends on putting yourself in vulnerable situations, like interviews and submitting work. If you opt out, you don’t progress.

Learning to be vulnerable involves accepting that vulnerability is necessary if you are to grow. It means you start to embrace the benefits of emotionally exposing yourself, such as gaining constructive feedback which you can use to improve. You can start with a few forays into showing your vulnerability and gradually increase the frequency. You will notice a paradox: the more vulnerable you become (or rather, the more you demonstrate your vulnerability), the more your confidence grows.

Vulnerability is linked to confidence because it cultivates self-acceptance. When you come to terms with your vulnerability, you begin to see that your flaws and failings are often mirror images of your strengths. You will also realise that most people accept your vulnerability – and many welcome the opportunity to interact with you on a “real” level, which is only achieved when you show yourself to be vulnerable. You will gain pleasure from situations which depend on exposing yourself to emotional danger, because taking the risk and being human is preferable to the alternative.

Think about dating: if you are to form a real connection, you must open yourself up and be vulnerable. Sure, your date might not like you or they might criticise you, but so what? You aren’t right for each other and need to move on to the next person. The alternatives are to never ask anyone on a date, which might get very lonely, or to put on a false front which will protect your feelings but also prevent you from interacting with others in any way that’s not superficial. The same is true of other situations – if you submit a piece of work which is important to you, for example, it might be rejected but at least there is a chance that it will be accepted. The alternative in this case is to never submit important work, which is pointless.

Being vulnerable can be painful. Criticism hurts more when you care: I can cope with rejections for stories which don’t mean much to me, but every rejection for a story I love cuts me to the core. But the pain is worth it because being vulnerable is the only way you can invite anything meaningful into your life. And it’s less painful than stagnating and never achieving your goals or forming close relationships.

See also: Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway

Make Kindness Your Superpower

The power of kindness is often experienced, but under-acknowledged. We tend to think of kindness as something that might brighten our day, but has limited impact on our lives. Wrong! Kindness can have huge effects: in the darkness of mental illness it can provide a light to help us find our way out. Performing acts of kindness can also help mental health problems, enabling us to reconnect with other people. Kindness can transform lives in small ways and big – look at the various charities who have provided people with clean water, basic healthcare, education, etc. And the best thing about kindness is that it benefits both the recipient and the person performing kind acts.

That’s why I want to invite you to make kindness your superpower. Use it to improve your life and the whole world.

Random acts of kindness have attracted a lot of attention over the past 10 years or so, celebrated for their eccentricity as much as their effects, but I prefer targeted acts of kindness. Targeted acts of kindness have more inherent meaning because they involve strong feelings about the recipient and/or the specific act of kindness. You might want to treat a friend who has stuck with you through the hard times, or who is going through a hard time herself. Perhaps you decide to donate to Amnesty International because you are passionate about human rights. Maybe you know a teenage boy who is always helping others and want to help him achieve one of his own goals. Targeted acts of kindness might not have the tabloid appeal of random acts of kindness, but I believe they are infinitely more awesome.

If we make kindness our superpower we can change the world, but we all have to start with a single person: you, yourself. It makes sense when you think about it – how can you access the full power of a value if you refuse to let it radiate in all directions, including inwards? When you are kind to yourself, you increase your ability to be kind to others. How many more acts of kindness could you perform if you look after yourself instead of beating yourself up all the time? How much more effort could you put into being kind to others when you gain the energy that comes from being kind to yourself?

Another awesome thing about targeted acts of kindness: they are accessible. Anyone can begin by doing something for a friend or loved one. Even if you are unable to leave the house, you can send an email to a friend thanking them for their support. You can make lunch for your parents if you can’t afford to treat them to dinner at a top restaurant. If you’re short on time, it takes seconds to send a charity donation via text message. Targeted acts of kindness cannot be quantified; when you are depressed, cooking dinner for someone is a massive act of kindness and the recipient will realise this, even if it seems insignificant to an outsider. A cheap surprise gift from a friend is more valuable than an expensive birthday present because it shows that your friend is thinking about you, without being prompted by a special occasion. Do whatever you can and remember that acts of kindness, in whatever form, are always important and effective.

So venture forth and have fun with your new superpower. Think of creative ways you can help someone achieve their dream. Aim to target acts of kindness at as many people as you can in a single day – then try to beat your record on another day. Shower a single person with kindness. Form a league of kindness superheroes with your friends or colleagues and use your combined power to bombard a local neighbourhood or a faraway nation with kindness. Don’t worry if you can’t do something “big” – just do whatever you can and let us know about it in the comments.

10 Simple Ways to Start Taking Care of Yourself

  1. Take your medication. Even if you are sceptical about how effective it is, give medication a shot if you been prescribed some. Never stop taking it or adjust the dose without supervision from your doctor. If you have trouble remembering to take it, keep it in a visible place (out of the reach of any children or pets) and next to a calendar you can cross off.

 

  1. Eat breakfast. The more nutritious, the better, but eating anything is better than skipping breakfast. It helps you to wake up and prepare for the day ahead. It also sets a precedent: when you start the day with a caring gesture, you are more likely to continue in the same vein.

 

  1. Apply body lotion. This sounds random, but it helps you to reconnect with your body. I credit this habit with helping me improve my health and fitness over the past couple of years. It made me aware of the mind-body connection and enabled me to start appreciating my body after years of self-hatred and abuse.

 

  1. Stretch. You don’t have to do hours of yoga (though you can if you want): just stretch a few times a day. I do it while watching TV. Try to stretch your whole body and never force the stretch – slight discomfort is normal, pain is not. I find stretching good for de-stressing and bringing me back into the moment.

 

  1. Eat a piece of fruit. Healthy eating often falls by the wayside when you have mental health problems. Eating a single piece of fruit takes little effort and reminds you of the importance of taking care of yourself. Even if the rest of your diet is a disaster zone, you will have done one thing to nourish your body.

 

  1. Find 3 things to be grateful for. At first, this is very difficult. The only ideas you come up with will seem stupid. But there are no stupid answers and everyone can find 3 little things for which to be grateful. Mine have included the sun shining, my dog, watching a TV programme, chocolate, a cup of tea, listening to my favourite song and getting a text message from a friend. Even when you find ‘bigger’ things to be thankful for, you will often find that the ‘little’ things give you just as much pleasure.

 

  1. Open a window. You might feel like shutting yourself away and that’s fine, but opening a window gives your home an airing and helps it feel less stale. It also connects you to the outside world in a small way, which reminds you that you are part of the world.

 

  1. Stroke an animal. This is tricky if you don’t have a pet, but you can borrow one from a friend or neighbour. Or find a friendly cat in the street. Stroking animals has proven to be beneficial for mental health. It feels good to give attention to another being – and to receive their attention and gratitude in return.

 

  1. Buy some flowers. A cheap bunch of seasonal blooms is perfect because they usually have better scents than expensive flowers. They add a little cheer to your home and brightness to your life, reminding you that there is beauty in the world.

 

  1. Contemplate a piece of art. A favourite painting or poem is ideal for this, but music, films, sculpture and stories also work well. Art is all about connecting with other people – the artist(s), the subject(s), your fellow appreciators and the world in general. Art has a deep beauty that resonates; it’s not just about aesthetics, it’s also about the concepts at its heart.