We've all heard of dental floss, but mental floss to prevent stress, anxiety, and depression?
I was recently reading over a credible nutrition website and it says:
Research shows that good nutrition lowers people's risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis. There are simple steps we all can take to eat healthier at home, work, and elsewhere.
I couldn't agree more, but can these same rules be applied to our mental health? As this quote shows us above, when thinking of nutrition, most people think of nutrition in terms of food. Just as important is to think of the nutrition of our minds. In my experience with my own clients paying attention to the nutrition of our minds shows significant stress reduction and an increase in well-being. In this diet I include all our 5 senses. So, what kind of nutrition are you feeding your mind on a daily basis and how is it affecting you? I bring people through the following practice to create awareness around what their daily lives consist of. So let's run through it:
Sight - What are you feeding your eyes on a daily basis? Is it lots of horrific and catastrophic images from the news? Or is it oversaturated with celebrity bling? Take a moment and take stock. If your eyes had a say in it, what would they want to look at on a daily basis. In other words, what gifts could you give your eyes today?
Smell - What are you feeding your nose on a daily basis? Many of us don't even think about this sense. Do you take an extra minute and smell the food you're about to eat before you take it in? When walking by flowers, do you take a moment to take in their scent, maybe twice? What does your nose want?
Hearing - Ah, the ears. What are they exposed to? I live in a city, so I often hear planes overhead, sirens, cars honking at times. In other words, stressful nutrition. It's so important to be aware of this and ask your ears, what do you want to hear? Can you take a time out and listen to your favorite music? Do you have an ocean or park nearby to listen to the waves or the birds? Maybe quiet sounds best. Practice this inquiry and try and gift yourself this nutrition today.
Touch - We live in a culture where so many of us are afraid of touch. Most of the touch we get throughout the day is our fingers typing on a warm plastic keyboard. What does your skin yearn for? The tickling of a feather? The fluffy or coarse coat of your pet's fur? Your partner's bare skin? Giving yourself these pleasures can be enormously restorative.
Taste - Aha, this overlaps with the food nutrition we originally discussed. Yes, food has an effect on your mental health, but not just what you eat, but how you eat it, how you taste it, and if you enjoy it. Most of us are so busy multitasking during the day that we hardly take a moment to even taste our food. Just ask yourself, have you ever eaten a meal and then said to yourself, wow, I didn't even taste that or where did it go? So, what kind of nutrition do your taste buds want? What would make them sing? And as always, we can always splurge, but moderation is good practice.
Touching base with yourself daily about this kind of reflection is good mental floss. We're actively engaging what it is we are giving our minds and bodies. If it's all doom and gloom and starving our senses of what they need, then we are suffering from mental malnutrition and this feeds into stress, anxiety, and depression. Check in, give yourself some good nutrition, and see what happens today.
As always, feel free to share your stories, comment or ask questions. Enjoy!
LOVE this! - Valerie - Mar 25th 2011
Thank you sooo much for posting this, and linking it on your other post "Can Anxiety Be A Good Thing?"!! Currently, I am a Junior in college, and just transferred to a school that is about an hour and a half away from my home. I am extremely close with my family, and am a triplet who has never been "alone" without my brother or sister until this school year. I've had an anxiety/panic disorder and mild depression for about six years now and going away has really set off my anxiety, panic & depression. I was feeling particularly hopeless today, until I read this.
I thank you again!!
A Practice to Help - Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. - Aug 28th 2008
Thank you for your comments, resources and insights. That is exactly how we all learn from one another.
One thing I'd like to add here is an easy way to remember to Come to our Senses is to practice the STOP technique. This is Stop, Take a Breath, Observe, and Proceed. Acronyms can be enormously helpful for remembering to do these practices. In the Observe piece we can check in with our senses, this helps us get in touch what is happening right now. Try it out!
Back to our senses - Daron Larson - Aug 28th 2008
I agree. There is a great deal to gain by paying attention to what we're experiencing through our various senses.
There are some great books out there to support further investigation into this area including Coming to Our Senses by Jon Kabat-Zinn and A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman. Daniel Pink has some interesting points to make in the chapters covering the senses in his book A Whole New Mind.
Life Hope - Arlan - Aug 26th 2008
Your article is a lifesaver. It is an extremely valuable resource for anyone that has had to make decisions in life on a daily basis, everyone. I sincerely hope this message will reach the countless individuals suffering from debilitating symptoms such as low self esteem and confidence.