Exercise your mind... the benefits of a mental workout24 April 2019
When I say ‘exercise your mind’ you might wonder what I’m talking about! Well I have a question for you lovelies. When you work out, do you just do one type of exercise? Or do you mix it up? For me, I like to do lots of different things. Some days it’s a full-on workout, other days it’s a gentle walk. I start most mornings with a yoga flow, but I also like to run. I find a full body workout throughout the week helps me feel great.
Exercise your mind for inside-out health
So why don’t we give this same kind of care and attention to our mental health? Most of us know the importance of self care, and this means making time to relax and focus inwards sometimes. But it can also be too easy to slip into a routine of thinking a ten-minute meditation now and then will work. And your brain is so so so complex. It needs feeding and nourishing, just like your body, and it needs training and working out, too.
Okay I know what you’re thinking! I think! Camille, I haven’t got time to do loads of stuff, I spend so long working out, training, working, seeing friends, I just haven’t got time to fit anything else into my schedule.
Well here’s my answer. Yes you have. Because none of it takes very long and by doing something repeatedly you are forming new habits. You do need to give it a bit of time, but before long your mental workout will be second nature. So stick with me here.
Meditation, mindfulness... and much more
Meditation is brilliant. It’s a great way to truly shut off your mind and clear out some of that mental clutter. You know what I mean, those niggly thoughts telling you what you’ve forgotten to do or what you’ve failed at or what you have to get done by tomorrow. Busy busy chatter chatter. But focusing on your breathing and listening to your meditation can quickly sweep all that to one side, giving your brain a spring clean and keeping you fresh and alert.
You need to set a little time aside for this ten minutes is fine, just try to do it regularly. Or take longer if you can. Figure out what you want to achieve. Are you clearing your mind for the day ahead? Or are you tidying up the clutter at the end of the day and looking to soothe yourself off to sleep? As this will obviously dictate what time you need to meditate. (You’re not obliged to just pick one, by the way! You can do morning and evening, lunchtime, mix it up, whatever works for you. Just make sure you know that’s what you’ll be doing and to leave enough time to do it).
Make sure you’ve got some peace and quiet so no one is going to come barging in. SWITCH YOUR PHONE OFF/AREOPLANE MODE! Not just on silent next to you where you can still see it flashing and lighting up. No distractions.
I like to use headphones and listen to guided meditations, but you can meditate in silence while sitting and you don’t need headphones if you don’t like them. Just make sure there are no other noises which will intrude. Let the soothing music wash over to you and follow the instructions as you breathe, relax and unwind. If you’ve chosen a mediation to help you sleep, you’ll probably already be halfway there by the time it ends, just remember to take your headphones off (if you are using them)!
Mediation can really help with mindfulness, bringing you directly into the moment rather than zooming forward or looking back. And by regularly meditating you’ll learn how to apply this technique throughout the day, too, training your brain to zone in on what’s happening, rather than the what ifs and how abouts.
Positive affirmations are also a part of your mental workout. I prefer to do mine in the morning to pep me up for the day ahead but hey it’s your brain! Again you’ll just need a few minutes but they are important. By repeating positive phrases to yourself over and over your brain starts to believe them. It’s not just mumbo jumbo, it’s a proven fact, so by doing this you’re feeding your mind healthy thoughts in the same way you feed your body healthy food.
Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) was a bit of a life saver for me. This isn’t one you can do yourself at first, you’ll need to find a practitioner, but their advice will stay with you long after you’ve finished your programme. I admit I was a bit offended when my mum first suggested this. Eczema is a real condition, not something in the mind. But this and all of these suggestions here are not saying you can heal your eczema with your mind. It’s saying that by shifting your mindset you can view your condition very very differently which has completely changed my life. For me, it was about putting a positive spin on every negative judgement I had about my experiences. We ‘reframed’ it all and boyyyy did I feel better.
And finally, let’s not forget journalling. Go let it out! Whatever you’re thinking, planning, hoping for... getting it all out in a journal is so cathartic, it’s like a little therapy session all by yourself! Think of your journal as your therapist, soaking up all your thoughts and ideas. Believe me, you’ll feel better not holding everything back! This is a good one to do before bed, so your brain isn’t always jumping at you with things you need to remember.
There you go, a nice little workout for your brain. The mind-body connection is so powerful and it’s important to remember that feeling good is up there with looking good. We know that sometimes a flare up will happen no matter what but you can’t let this make you miserable. We are warriors. We don’t say ‘oh eczema’s here I’ll hide away until it’s gone.’ We say ‘Hmm, I’m having a flare up. Thank you eczema for the reminder to take some better care of myself. But I still love my life, I am loved and this skin condition isn’t going to take that away from me.’
Lots of love, Camille xx