This group regularly site music and the arts as an important therapeutic tool for their well-being. Today we wanted to continue this musical theme in a more light-hearted way and look at music and performances which made us chuckle. As musical tastes are totally subjective this can lead to some finding certain songs to be funny that were not necessarily intended to be so.
We started to explore this topic by firstly thinking about how do we know when we are well and what keeps us well. When mental health is good people acknowledged that they are more likely to stick to a routine, sleep is likely to be better. People noticed that they were more likely to keep things in perspective and stay in contact with friends and family. In well times there is a more positive view of the future along with good motivation to get up and do things-and to enjoy and find pleasure in those things, other people notice that ‘I’m my normal self’.
So in becoming ill, people notice that the above factors start to be affected; instead of having things in perspective ruminating can occur with the negative voices become louder. There may be disruption to routine, sleep and eating habits and maybe use of alcohol or drugs or other behaviours which can be destructive such as unhealthy reward seeking like self-harm or excessive shopping. Debt can become a problem along with avoiding people and irritability if with people, or a highly anxious energy. We asked also what happens with relationships, people said they may become more withdrawn, and feeling like they are not deserving.
We then began to think about what can help in these times; having a place to communicate how you are feeling is really important whether that is a supportive family, friends or a group like this. People spoke openly about how it feels to be suicidal and that it helps when you can talk about it openly and directly rather than people skirting around the issue as they are worried that mentioning suicide may put the idea in someone’s mind.
It’s useful to know what keeps you well, as when these things start to change this is an indication of becoming unwell, with the awareness of this people may be able to recognise that this is a time to use support and self care plans and to go gently.
We started by identifying what is difference? The group came up with that difference is something that stands out, something out of your comfort zone or familiarity, it can be empowering, exciting, it may be something which is unexpected, breaking free of conformity, it may be different attitudes or the first experience of something.
Next we looked at ‘how do I feel different, and how does that affect me’? Here people were able to talk about how they felt stigmatised due to their mental health and feared rejection if they were honest about it. Other people referred to how their gender was perceived or assumptions made about it and how this could be frustrating and can leave people feeling dis empowered and almost having to prove their identity.
Finally we talked about how we respond to other people’s differences. Some people avoid or ignore this so that there is no conflict. We talked about how sometimes we overcompensate because while culture is in a state of flux of how certain groups are identified and what is appropriate or not, we get worried about offending people resulting in us going over the score (like positive discrimination) and we can accidentally patronise people.
By the end we agreed it is important to keep listening to difference and to just ask people and be curious about how they would like to be seen and treated and hopefully as we educate ourselves and build relationships, ultimately the relationship will be important, the rest won’t matter, it’s just what we are housed in.
While constructing a group programme we try and make the content as varied and diverse as possible. When we do group sessions on art and crafts we find that it creates a real sense of ‘freedom’ for members to engage in their own creativity. This setting also seems to make people more relaxed to chat.
This is really interesting article from mindfood.com on the benefits art and crafts.
So with yoga seeming to be very much on trend with yoga centres springing up everywhere and the group already enjoying breathing exercises where we connect with the breath to our bodies, we thought we would explore this a little more and even experiment. It is not clear as to whether yoga is ancient or modern, some say it is a practise which is thousands or years old originating in India, and others say it is a form of Scandinavian gymnastics originating last century which became very popular in India. Either way many people are benefiting in a number of ways from this form of exercise. Physically, yoga can increase flexibility, muscle strength and tone, it can help to improve respiration, energy and vitality. It may help with metabolism and weight reduction. It can help cardio and circulatory health improving athletic performance and strengthening which can help to protect from injury.
Yoga is reported to benefit mental health by bringing bodily awareness, enabling people to notice stress, anxiety and tension. Therefore the exercises can provide stress relief, relief of muscle tension, reduce strain and inflammation, calm and centre the nervous system and a sharpening of attention and concentration.
So with so many benefits what’s not to like?
There are a number of apps to take you through yoga poses. We downloaded a free trial and as a group experimented with quite a gentle 5 minute work out which was partially seated, and used a chair.
All in all this was quite a relaxed session for the group in beginning to introduce people to yoga should they wish to attend a class somewhere for any number of the listed benefits, not least having a social activity.
Below is a video demonstrating some more yoga poses.
In this group we revisited a topic we have looked at in previous sessions. We began by chatting about what people noticed about what happened to their relationship with food depending on their mood. In general people agreed that when they felt well they ate better, and when they ate better they felt better. Healthy eating seemed to increase with self-esteem and again vice-versa. When we are tired we notice that we may use caffeine or sugar as a pick me up, and when bored eating can become habitual, ‘eating for the sake of it’. We also spoke about how food may be a helpful structure in a day.
We explored the concept of comfort eating and again, many noticed that in periods of depression or anxiety they would comfort eat, though conversely for others the opposite occurred and they would eat less, or even stop eating altogether.
This did put us then more in the direction of talking a little about eating disorders when eating becomes a mechanism for control ‘because I can’, whether that is overeating or under eating. Eating disorder may also be a way of managing emotional pain, a form of self-harm, or as a punishment of self-by not eating well if one feels like they don’t deserve to care for self.
We looked at the list of essential nutrients again given to us by Steve Turnbull on his visit to us in 2017. What we learned was that it seems that a healthy microbiome for a gut is fostered by much variety in our diet, less starch and sugar, more fiber and less processed food.
Group members did talk about all the confusing messages from the media, for example, eggs are reported to be good for you one day and not the next etc. What does seem to be a consistent message though is the less processed the better, so the closer we keep it to natural and made by us personally may be a guide to healthier eating and cooking. As with most things, balance is helpful, and those little dudes in our gut really seem to enjoy variety.