Image courtesy of Tottenham Hotspur Mind Series Promotion
Mind.org, the mental health charity, has an intelligent marketing strategy that addresses a vital cause in this day and age. Its effective use of multiple channels and stakeholders is a good lesson for NGOs and businesses alike.
The reality of mental health in the UK
1 in 4 people in the UK experiences a mental health problem each year, with 1 in 6 people reporting an issue.
Often swept under the carpet, not enough is being done to bring awareness and provide adequate support.
The fallout from Covid, lockdowns, mass bereavement, failing economies, climate change, and family displacement due to terror has increased substance abuse.
Social media has connected people and has polarised opinions on politics, Brexit, and racism.
Children often suffer the most from peer pressure and online abuse on social media.
This year racism has trended as the number one issue which is still prevalent in this age.
What are we doing to help those struggling with mental health?
Tackling this crisis needs everyone to get involved, with key organisations leading the charge, bringing together the public, celebrities, government, public services and social media in a united effort.
Leading the charge in addressing mental health
Mind.org provide advice and support to allow people experiencing a mental health problem to receive guidance and help.
In the last few years, Mind’s marketing campaigns use competitions, social media videos, and PR events to promote their cause with a 360-degree marketing strategy.
They’ve also created campaigns requiring employers to provide statutory sick pay and benefits such as taking time off work after a mental health crisis.
Additional campaigns address mental health problems relating to housing, squalid conditions, stigmas and discrimination surrounding peoples’ homes and neighbourhoods.
The most visual partnership is with the English Football League, promoting mental health awareness amongst fans and receiving support.
This summer 2021, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal, held a mini-competition called the Mind Series, attending stadiums and live streams. The proceeds of the matches went to Mind’s mental health charity.
One anecdote was the encouragement Tottenham fans showed Bukayo Saka, who received racial abuse after the Euro 2020 final for missing a penalty. In keeping with the Mind-series friendlies, fans from both Arsenal and Tottenham applauded Saka’s arrival.
Mind.org’s marketing campaigns tackle a complex issue with an intelligent marketing strategy.
By involving numerous stakeholders, including the public, celebrities, government, emergency services, employers, and influential bodies such as the EFL, Mind garners support for a trending issue in the public domain, covering all forms of mental health issues, including racism.
Reading Time: 3minutes”Welcome to the daily calm”, Tamara Levitt’s morning salutation on the Calm app, has become somewhat of a mantra, and a daily fix, for me over the last two years.
A voice that imbues reassurance, Tamara makes you feel you’ve made the right choice in taking time-out at the beginning of the day and set things right with the world.
‘What is there to mindfulness meditation’? You may ask. Sit down, close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and then what?
It’s taken close to 700 sessions to begin to appreciate the profound effect, that the practice of meditation can have on handling the most common of everyday matters.
In an era of emotionally charged circumstances, there has never been a time, and greater need to watch what we say and be willing to listen.
It’s all happening— biological warfare, social distancing, lockdowns, economic uncertainty, political powder kegs, and emotionally charged riots, all ignited by a single thoughtless word or action, or lack thereof.
Frustration can take many forms— events that are outside our control, trying to get to sleep with financial worries zapping around the synapses, or awakening to the dread of another week with the same routine.
Perhaps you’re having a hard time getting into the zone of an urgent project, distracted by all that’s going on. Has the vague idea of hooking the kids on the coat rack for ten minutes peace, brought a faint smile to the corners of your mouth?
There’s a lot more to mindfulness meditation, then meets the eye. The makers of the Calm app understand that point in its entirety.
The Calm app pretty much tackles most mental states and addresses them with a variety of options. The background scenes and soundscapes set the mood. The app offers meditation courses, guided and unguided, as well as celeb narrated bedtime stories, that will rock you to sleep like a babe in a mother’s arms.
I swear my wife has something for Stephen Fry, I haven’t the heart to tell her, he’s not available, and never will be. If only she would wear earphones. His voice whispering into my ear, when I’m trying to nod off, doesn’t do it for me. But each to their own.
Calm is one of those rare apps you can pretty much use all day for a host of reasons. Besides calming the nerves, meditation is an attitude and mood adjuster, that helps to look at things from a different angle.
The music section promotes mental health in a variety of ways, helping with concentration or relaxation, featuring sounds that have ASMR effects, stimulating the desired mood. There are tracks for the entire family, including lullabies, nature melodies, and even pieces with Disney piano, from various composers.
The focus tracks may sound a little obscure, such as ‘Wires on Carpet’, or ‘Memories Fade,’ but they do the job. If you prefer something more natural, there are soundscapes like ‘Forest Ambience’ (one of my favorites) or background noise such as ‘Rain on Window.’
A word on something meaningful
There are plenty of reviews online about meditation apps, including Calm. Yet, for me, the most meaningful takeaway is the valuable advice and guidance Tamara and associated meditation teachers give, throughout the guided sessions.
More than anything is the awakening that has arisen within me, from meditating every day over an extended period.
The epiphany— ‘the value of life.’
An understanding that comes with a clarity of mind, I have only gained through my mindfulness meditation practice. When you focus on your breathing day in and day out, you begin to comprehend how precious life is, and how much we all take for granted.
The statement may sound like a platitude, but the question is, on what level do you understand how precious life is?
The war of emotions
Another major lesson that never ends, and needs the practice of several lifetimes is, how we handle our emotions.
How sure, we always are that we are right and they are wrong.
‘What?! Are they stupid?!’ ‘Why?’ ‘They just don’t get it!’ ‘They’re so dumb!’ ‘I hate them!’ ‘That’s it. I’m fed up,’ ‘Screw them’ Bam! Outrage, anger, hatred, explosion, release, even thrill, maybe exhilaration, but too often, a consequential sincere regret, of shame, sadness, and self-loathing.
The damage is done, we’ve allowed our emotions to destroy trust, and everything that’s taken so long to build. The cycle goes on, and without holding ourselves accountable, and doing something about it, we will never gain control and find long-lasting sanity.
Mindfulness meditation teaches essential values of compassion, patience, and a willingness to listen, without aggression, violence, and self-destructive reactivity. Above all, mindfulness enhances an appreciation for the sanctity of all life, human and animal.
We have a gift to which only our breath is a witness. Thank you to Tamara and all the contributors of Calm, for helping me understand that.
Reading Time: 7minutesThere are over 1.5 billion Hindus, Buddhists, and followers of Jainism in the world. Many of whom practice Meditation (Dhyana). Add to that, Western practitioners of Yoga and mindfulness. There’s a reasonable probability, over 20% of the world’s population practice meditation.
Mindfulness meditation in the west has grown at an exponential rate in the last few years. A slew of meditation apps has flooded the market. Additionally, mindfulness meditation centers have tripled in a decade.
Cynics may look at mindfulness as a fad that will fade. Yet, mental health issues are on the rise globally. Political hatred, climate change, terrorism, and crime, don’t help. The topping on the cake, a pandemic that’s shaken humanity to its boots, as governments claw to regain control. Global change has changed our lives to the extreme.
Drug companies are profiting from antidepressants, and doctors are quick to write prescriptions. Supermarkets might as well place anxiety medication next to the fruit and veggies. Is it right that over 12% of the US population over the age of 12, is on mental health medication, and climbing? An apparent global trend, many are turning to recreational drugs and alcohol, to numb anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness meditation is not a cure on its own for anxiety or depression, but it can go along way to help in managing stress. Talking with family and friends and consulting with professional health carers is essential. Exercise, proper nutrition, and sleep also help. Occupying yourself with a meaningful purpose is critical. What mindfulness can do is provide mental space to better handle what life throws at you.
What is Mindfulness?
A standard definition of mindfulness is being aware of what’s going on in the present moment. More accurately, mindfulness is the focused observation of change in what you perceive as the present moment.
In reality, change is going on all the time. As soon as you say now, it’s already in the past. At a quantum level, we all live in a continuous flow of changing events. Our perspective of change is a ‘blur’ of what’s happening on a quantum level. If you stare at a point on the wall, it looks static. You can’t see any change going on. On an atomic level, electrons are buzzing around all the time.
The second important point is that your observation of changing events is relative to your personal experience. What’s happening ‘right now’ for someone else is not the same as what’s happening to you. We all have a different perspective on things. That’s why compassion and listening to other’s perspectives so important. If we want to gain a complete picture in life, we have no choice but to listen to different points of view.
In practice, mindfulness meditation starts with training your mind to focus on your breathing, a continuously changing process of inhalation and exhalation. During meditation, you concentrate on your breathing in precise detail. As you try to focus, you soon become aware of the thoughts and emotions that arise.
As you expand the scope of your attention, you become conscious of the sites and sounds of the world around you. This state of conscious awareness enables you to experience life to the fullest. It’s a feeling of connected oneness with life.
Thoughts and feelings come and go. They go hand in hand and are temporary. Mindfulness gives you the power to choose which thoughts and feelings to engage. Practicing meditation develops the skill of creating mental space. By observing your thoughts and feelings that arise, you create a buffer. As thoughts and feelings are temporary, you can choose to act upon them, or not.
Mental space gives you the power of choosing when and how to act. Mindfulness is a way to not be impulsive. Not necessarily reaching for the chocolate, when someone offers you one. Not being compulsive by letting your anger get hold of you when someone pushes your button. In short, mindfulness prevents you from being reactive.
” I paint, as a matter of fact, to stop thinking. I stop thinking, and I feel that I’m a part of everything outside and inside of me.”
If you’ve never meditated before, try it
Try meditating for 3 minutes…
Take a moment to find a comfortable position, sitting on a chair or cushion. Keep a posture that is alert and yet at ease. Close your eyes, and notice any points of contact between your body and chair or cushion. Feel the pull of gravity. Let your spine lengthen and grow tall. Relax your face, shoulders and your body.
As a way to anchor your attention, bring your attention to your natural breath. Concentrate where the breath feels the strongest— where the air passes your nostrils, or perhaps, the rise and fall of your lungs. Don’t think about your breath; observe it. Feel it in precise detail.
Hold your attention on the feeling of the breath as you inhale and exhale. As you inhale, drink in the breath in. Upon your exhale, feel your body settle.
As you become aware your thoughts going astray, gently bring them back to your attention of the breath.
This is the practice of mindfulness. Becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings. Bringing your attention back to the present moment of focus on your breathing.
See how your mind, goes astray. It’s quite hard to stay focused. It’s not so much about preventing yourself from thinking. Mindfulness is more about observing when your mind goes astray. The essential point is not to become agitated as thoughts arise. Gently return your attention to your breath, with compassion and patience.
The regular practice of meditation enables you to call upon mindfulness at will. As you engage with your experiences throughout the day, mindfulness gives you control.
The practice of meditation calms the mind. Over time, you become less erratic and more connected with the world around you. Your focus is on the hear and now. You are aware of thoughts that arise as if someone is speaking inside your head.
You are aware, but it’s not necessary to reciprocate, adopting the thoughts and feelings as our own. The practice of mindfulness gives you the power to choose how to respond to life without compulsive behavior..
The neuroscience of mindfulness
Mindfulness is a brain training exercise. Through practice, mindfulness changes the structure and function of the brain—the regions responsible for regulating attention, emotions, and self-awareness.
MRI studies show that when we are daydreaming, certain areas of the brain are more active. Most people spend 45% of their time daydreaming. A state neuroscientists call the Default Mode Network (DMN). This region of the brain is self-referential. It’s responsible for reflection and planning, related to depression and anxiety.
The DMN part of the brain deals with the past and future, ignoring current changes happening now. If you allow this part of the brain to dominate your time, you end up ruminating. It can be destructive and immobilizes you. What you should be doing is managing your response to events as they occur now.
Being active reduces anxiety and depression
The Task-Positive Network (TPN) regions of the brain are active when you focus on something. When this area is active, there is no ruminating. There is no past or future, only awareness of changes happening now in front of you.
Only one of these systems, DMN or TPN, can be active at any one time. By being present in the moment, you can leave depression behind. By practicing mindfulness, you activate the TPN part of the brain.
That’s why physical activity, sports, and exercise complement meditation. They go hand in hand. Both bring attention to your breathing and the sensations of the body, compelling you to act here and now. Both have a positive effect on the brain.
“Physical changes occur in your brain with regular mindfulness practice.”
Images of the synaptic connections morph as the brain engages in meditation. You can find the Amygdala deep within the temporal lobes of the brain. The Amygdala handles the fight or flight response to perceived environmental threats. When experiencing stress, the Amygdala is more active. The regular practice of mindfulness reduces the size of the Amygdala.
Studies have bee carried out on Buddhist monks practicing life-long mediation. These monks develop robust connections between different parts of the brain. The extent of these connections synchronizes communication between different regions. Each region is responsible for various functions.
The brain’s pre-frontal cortex handles the planning. It is also responsible for complex cognitive behavior. These functions include personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behavior. Meditation has shown to increase the density and strengthening of this area of the brain.
Regular meditation also develops the size of the hippocampus, responsible for memory. Meditation counteracts shrinkage of the brain that occurs through aging.
Fifteen minutes of meditation a day sharpens the mind, improving attention and memory. People that have meditated all their lives can concentrate and hold their attention. Even better than younger people that don’t meditate.
Regular meditation also strengthens the immune system, helping to fight infection. Mindfulness experts have reported feeling less physical pain. What’s interesting is that the areas of the brain associated with pain don’t shrink. Instead, the regions associated with emotion and memory are less active. The connectivity between the areas of pain and emotional memory is less active. By not drawing on memories of pain, the experts were able to feel less pain.
Our health institutions support mindfulness
Further resources on Mindfulness Meditation:
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends mindfulness meditation as a way to prevent depression.
“Meditation may physically change the brain and body and could potentially help to improve many health problems and promote healthy behaviors.”
If you haven’t tried mindfulness meditation before, and not sure what to do, try downloading and app to your phone. For many, it has changed their lives forever. Personally, I use Calm. But there are several apps to choose from. Pick one that’s right for you. Whatever you do, don’t get stressed about having the perfect experience. It takes patience and practice. Go in peace and health, and have a great day.
Reading Time: 5minutesAt the time of writing this article, the story of COVID19 has taken center stage. Everything else is secondary.
“Today, there’s only one story, Coronavirus.”
COVID19 is a pandemic that’s permeated our entirely shared reality. Since the second world war, no other story has affected our lives so dramatically. Thousands of people are dying from a merciless indiscriminate disease, governments are scrambling to contain the spread of the virus and manage the economic fallout. Social distancing has impacted everyone without exception.
Humanity is in fear of an unseen killer, and the lack of human connection through social distancing only exacerbates the tension. The question is, how will you manage the growing anxiety?
Change and the stress of facing the unknown
Some are handling events with a light-heart and positive mental attitude. Others are frightened, some on the verge of panic. The change to our lives is a hard pill to swallow. A more subtle killer than the disease itself is the domino effect of stress.
It’s easy to let fear creep into your life. Life seems surreal. The story is like a movie playing out before your very eyes. Our personal freedom impinged by government health warnings. Lockdown and self-isolation. It’s hard to get around the question— What will be?
The problem is, people often operate from a state of reactivity as opposed to non-reactivity. Rushing to the supermarkets to stock up on groceries, people bartering with toilet paper for a coming doomsday. Fear of the unknown is embedded within our DNA, so subtle, it often goes unnoticed. It’s easy to allow your emotions to dictate your words and reactions.
If allowed to go unchecked, this autoresponse can have disastrous results. People become irritable. There’s a frustration of not knowing what to do next. It’s the fear of being powerless. Arguments can occur over the simplest of things. Confinement compounds issues of mental health. There is a loss of freedom and control on multiple fronts— boredom, loneliness, economic worry, fear of the illness itself. People become jittery and anxious.
At a time when you most need a robust immune system, managing stress is critical. Its scientific fact that stress weakens the immune system. Knowing your getting anxious, compounds things.
How to manage stress and strengthen your immune system
While riding out the Pandemic, here’s 10 things you can do to manage your mental and physical health. In combination, these steps can ease stress, improve your mood, strengthen your body’s immune system.
1. Keep Occupied
Be productive. If you can still go to work, do so. If not, work from home. If you’ve been put on unpaid leave, try to find alternative sources of income. Just sitting around may be cool for a day or two, but it can soon lead to a downward spiral of further anxiety and even depression.
2. Limit Your Time With The News
Keep posted once a day. Don’t watch TV reports or read news media all day, it will consume your life.
3. Be Physically Active
Do exercise, even at home. Exercise is a sure way to ward off depression and keep a positive frame of mind. You’ll sleep much better and it will strengthen your immune system. If you aren’t already doing it, try Yoga. It’s a superb way to calm the nerves, manage stress and keep your body limber and toned.
4. Help Others
Be kind and have compassion for those around you. Ask how you can help. We’re all in the same boat. Difficult times that affect everyone brings people together.
5. Eat Healthy Food
Don’t pig out on junk. You need to build your body’s strength and immune system. If you don’t mind fruit and veggies, eat plenty. Vegetarian and Vegan diets are known to build the immune system and lower inflammation.
6. Limit Your Intake Of Alcohol And Recreational Drugs
Alcohol weakens your immune system. The European recommended limit of alcohol intake is 10g per day for women and 20g per day for men. If you can cut it out altogether, it’s even better. Don’t zone out on recreational drugs. You may be at home for a while, and recreational drugs are expensive. Even worse, the long-term effects of continuous use will only make things worse. Long-term use of recreational drugs can magnify issues that cause stress— unemployment, social distancing, self-isolation. The compound effect of stress, continuous use of alcohol and recreational drugs, creates an underlying condition for a virus to have disastrous effects. Keep yourself healthy by living a healthy lifestyle.
7. Play Recreational Games
If you’re stuck at home, play recreational games to keep the mind active in the here and now. Board games with adults and kids are fun, uplifting and bring people together. Once again, great for strengthening the immune system.
8. Listen To Uplifting Music
Manage your mood by playing music with positive energy. Spinning or perhaps some Indie tracks, lift the spirit. Classic music and yoga tracks calm the mind. Ballads are nice but can make you sad and melancholy. So watch your mood.
9. Watch Uplifting Movies And Media
Watching inspiring comedies or media can be a welcome mental break. But don’t overdo it by becoming a couch potato. Ration your viewing time to an hour a day. Being productive is much more satisfying and rewarding.
10. Calm Your Mind With Meditation
Try taking time out to stop thinking. Clear your head with Meditation that alleviates stress. Even ten minutes a day can do wonders for calming the nerves and getting in touch with your body. Meditation is grounding.
mindfulness meditation is highly effective in managing stress
Mindfulness Meditation develops the skill of creating mental space and disengaging from the continuous flow of thoughts going through your brain. Focusing on the breath during meditation calms the mind.
Concentrating on breathing during mindfulness meditation, exposes the constant flow of thoughts that invades the mind. By observing your own thoughts, feelings, and experiences, you become self-aware.
It this state of mindfulness, observation of your own thoughts and feelings from a ‘third party’ perspective, creates mental space to be Non-Reactive. Mental space allows you to be calm and clear-minded. It enables you to make better choices.
Mindfulness helps you to be more rational
Practicing mindfulness allows you to operate more rationally. You can examine how you spend your time, energy, and resources. It enables you to explore the quality of how you feel about yourself, your relationship with others, and the world around you. The mental space you achieve through mindfulness allows you to reframe your life from a different, more healthy perspective.
Much of your time is spent worrying about what will be in the future or regrets of past events, things you can’t do anything about. These thoughts can be distorted and exaggerated, with paranoia or false conclusions.
How to Manage Change in Your Life
When facing even global events such as the pandemic COVID-19, you can only deal with the cards you have in hand. We all live in a constant state of change. Paradoxically, the evolutionary process of change is continuous. Events change all the time.
You think of a clock as measuring a linear march of time. What we are really measuring is a relative transformation of change, that’s a different experience for each one of us.
Don’t give in to the fear of global events. Embrace change with curiosity.
The change you experience is relative to your circumstance and different for everyone. You can approach change with anticipation and an attitude of exploration, or you can look at it with fear and dread. It’s your choice. But change is going to happen, whether you like it or not.
It is how you mentally manage your personal experience of change that will help you face events with peace of mind.