Posts tagged with: wellbeing

Selective news

When I was a kid my family had a little ritual on Sunday mornings. My mum would bring home delicious bread and pastries from the bakery and we had breakfast together around the kitchen table. There wasn’t much talking however. Not because we didn’t like talking to each other–we did. But part of that little ritual was that we all brought our own things to read. Every now and then my dad would share news he found particularly interesting which we all then discussed at length.

He still reads the news everyday and occasionally sends me articles to read but I don’t follow the news whatsoever. While it’s important to be interested in the world around me, when I’m confronted with anything news-related I usually ask myself: Should I care about this?

If something is really important and worth knowing I’ll find out about it sooner or later. Last year was an exception as I visited RNZ pretty much every day to get a status update on the situation in New Zealand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even so I started to limit the amount of times I’d seek out information in order to protect my mental health. I noticed the less news I read, the better I felt. This is especially true since these days they are usually filled with negativity and pessimism. Two things I don’t need in my life.

What I learnt from reading Factfulness is that things aren’t as bleak as the media make them out to be–quite the opposite actually. Even so I’ll still refrain from reading the news unless it’s beautiful news.

Relearning how to breathe

Have you ever felt anxious or stressed out? Chances are the answer is Yes especially in the last year or so. I’ve been there. I think we all have.

That’s why I was excited to attend a talk by Sarah Laurie the founder of Take a Breath who made it her mission to improve people’s mental health. She’s been working with scientists for the past 4 years to better understand how our body responds to anxiety and how to manage it.

The tricky thing with anxiety and stress is that they creep up on us and we often don’t even notice the warning signs. When we’re not sleeping well, feeling a bit under the weather or irritable it’s usually just shrugged off. We tend to think it’s just a phase and everyone probably experiences it at some point. Well, turns out it’s not.

A simple test to find out if you’re anxious is to put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Now, breathe like you normally would. You should feel your belly rise with each breath.

If you feel it in your chest instead that’s fine. That’s the case for a lot of people. The good news is that it’s easy to fix and you should see results within only 7 days of retraining your body how to breathe.

According to Laurie our body has 2 states–performant and alert. As the name implies in the performant state we’re able to function to the best of our physical and cognitive abilities. The breath is relaxed and inflates our lungs which should make the belly rise.

In the alert mode, our body tenses up and our breath seems to be trapped in the chest area instead of the belly. This is its natural response to stressful situations. The problem is that these days many people are in the alert state most of the time.

As I mentioned earlier the best (and easiest) thing you could do to quickly improve your wellbeing is to retrain your body how to breathe properly.

By using reminders such as post-it notes or phone alerts to prompt you to breathe from your belly for about 10 seconds throughout the day you can break the habit of chest-breathing and start living a healthier life.