5 Life Hacks to Reduce Anxiety and Depression
In this series of 3 blog posts, I am focusing on small life changes that can make a big difference if you are living with under the shadow of anxiety and depression. Each suggestion is a well-researched and simple-to-apply ‘life hack’ to make micro changes to live a more joyful life today.
Many writers and creatives of all kinds are prone to periods of agonising self-doubt and loneliness. The good news is that we have more effective options than the whiskey bottle, though even small shifts require commitment to a process of change.
1. Aim Low, Go Slow
When you’re having a challenging time drop the extras, and simplify when you’re doing it tough. Order takeaway, eat toast, expect less of yourself for a time.
2. Half Smile
Research shows that the Buddhist practice of the “half smile” actually tricks the body-mind system into a more uplifted mood. First thing in the morning before you get out of bed or at any time in the day, try holding a Mona Lisa style smile with the corners of the mouth slightly lifted for a period of 2 to 15 minutes. Notice how this effects your thinking; it’s impossible to think persistently negative thoughts when the mouth is smiling.
I recommend cheap notebooks for rant-writing, aka journaling. The technique is put hand to page and for a specific time of 2, 5 or 20 minutes spew all thoughts, uncensored onto the page. Yes, it is journaling, but don’t get attached to the words or caught up in the phrasing. Cussing is encouraged, likewise repetition, cliché and whinging. This is not writing to share or to keep for posterity. That’s why I suggest using cheap school notebooks which have the advantage of being light and portable to carry anywhere to capture your brilliant thoughts and the overwhelming feelings, to get them out of your head where they circulate endlessly and repeat, and onto paper. Research shows greater benefit to the brain-body connection with handwriting versus computer. I have a box of my personal notebooks labelled “Burn when I die”. I don’t want anyone imagining I am perpetually angry, sad or unbalanced; rant-writing is a chance to externalise, to say the unacceptable, the fleeting, and the mundane. You’ll feel better for it.
Step outside and get somewhere green. Run, walk or sit on a bench, it doesn’t matter. Rest your eyes and mind with the colour green. Bring a plant pet into your home or office space. There is a growing body of research supporting what we instinctively know, nature-bathing lifts the weary spirit.
5. Tea Time
Wean yourself off anxiety-inducing coffee with antioxidant-rich black tea or green. Enjoy the ritual of tea often throughout the day to provide mini breaks in your routine. Use herbal teas or decaf after 2pm. There are so many fragrant options to tickle your senses from ginger to bergamot. Buy yourself an exquisitely beautiful vessel for home and workplace to enhance your experience of personal sanctuary in a cup.
Some Useful Resources:
- Forest Bathing and other musings on healing with nature with Louise Kiddell https://barefootwellbeing.com/blog
- Natalie Goldberg’s books and retreats on writing from the deep inner core https://nataliegoldberg.com/books/writing-down-the-bones/
- For more on practicing the Half Smile https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-zDng3KeM0