When you are feeling overwhelmed, out of control, down or downright depressed your mind tends to race. That feeling of not having complete control of your thoughts is typical of many of the mental health challenges people face. The inability to anchor yourself can trigger other, very real symptoms. Like shortness of breath, or deep self-doubt from feeling your thoughts are controlling you instead of the other way around.
Two of Peerhear’s Principles are especially useful for bringing you back to centre in times like these. They are the principles of Reading and Journaling. Of the 10 Principles that Peerhear recommends as daily habits for living a mentally well life, these two in particular work well for clearing the mental fog.
Reading can be as effective as yoga
The go-to recommendation for a racing mind is usually something like taking up yoga. Yoga can be incredibly beneficial to a state of heightened anxiety. Yet, there’s no whipping out the yoga mat at work between meetings. It takes effort to book into a class, or set up an app-based session and see it through. And, as much as we’d like to think that we would always make the effort, if we’re honest we don’t.
Which is why we were delighted to discover that reading for 30 minutes has an equal effect on relaxing the brain to 30 minutes of yoga. Now you’re talking! A book is portable. Sitting down with a nice cup of tea and allowing yourself 15 minutes of you time, indulging in something you are genuinely interested in, is easy to do. From anywhere!
“It doesn’t even have to be a book!” says Peerhear founder Peter Burge. “It’s less what you read than that you read. But do make sure it’s interesting. This is relaxation time, not study time. It shouldn’t become a chore.” He speaks from experience, as someone who regularly reads to relax at the end of a trying day, as a way to combat overthinking.
The science behind reading and its ability to focus the blast area of untethered thoughts into a single, controllable train of thought lies in the complex processes activated in the brain during the reading process. A 2013 study revealed heightened connections in the brain lasting days beyond the act of reading. These relate to things like perspective and your ability to feel sensations more deeply. In other words, reading makes you a better version of you! Who wouldn’t want that?
Journaling goes hand in hand with reading, in many ways. Again, it’s excellent for centring your thoughts and regaining control. Perspective disappears during your darkest moments, or at times when your energy is low. Writing things down connects you with your inner thoughts and brings clarity, often as if by magic.
Deepak Chopra, co-author of “The Healing Self” and founder of The Chopra Foundation, and Kabir Sehgal, New York Times best-selling author, attribute a number of additional benefits to journaling regularly for just 15 minutes a day. These include a better ability to recover from past traumatic experiences.
Peerhear peer counsellor Natasha is a great believer in the power of externalising your feelings so that they are not trapped inside you. “I journal when I'm excited, frustrated, angry, or when it feels like there is too much in my head,” she says, often advising the same for people she supports through her work.
“My mum bought me a hard copy of a journal as a Christmas present. It's truly amazing, with stickers for all kinds of activities as a visual reminder of what I’ve done during the day. I find it gives me a good perspective on how my day has gone. Mum has also challenged me to write down one positive thing about every day,” she adds.
Peter agrees, finding the exercise of writing down the things you are grateful for to be especially empowering when it comes to maintaining mental fortitude.
Peerhear peer counsellor Nikole provides an important reminder, however, not to beat yourself up if journaling is not for you. “I encourage the people I work with to journal, because of its many positive benefits. But it’s important to note that some find it extremely challenging,” she says, recalling a client with dyslexia who found the pressure to write overwhelming.
She continues: “Everyone’s path to mental health is unique. The principles that work well for someone might not be quite right for you. Where reading is challenging, try audio books or podcasts instead. And, perhaps painting, gardening or other creative outlets are your equivalent of journaling. The main point is to find that activity that lets your thoughts flow freely.”
Small habits win wars
Whether you decide to give reading or journaling a try, or both, remember it's the small steps that get you to your destination. Like saving up, forming good habits takes time. Commit a small amount of time every day to these principles and before you know it, your investment could amount to a bright new future.
if you think you’d like to chat with a Peerhear peer counsellor to help you organise your thoughts, get in touch through our website.