Positivity Plan Point 3 – Do Familiar Things Differently

[Recorded on Instagram 26/10/20 – Read the transcript below]

Hi there. I’m Dr. Courtney Raspin from Altum Health, and welcome to week three of the Altum viral positivity plan. For the last two weeks, and for the next seven weeks, I’ll be here live at 8:00 p.m. sharing ways to support your mental health while this pandemic continues to affect us every day.

Now, the whole premise of this plan is that we want to encourage everybody to stay home and stop the spread of the virus, but we can also encourage the spread of positivity by taking care of ourselves, using techniques based in psychological research. So, the plan has 10 focus areas and I’ll be here each week covering one tip at a time, one area at a time. And of course, I’ll be answering your questions along the way all the way up until Christmas.

People are joining now. Hi everyone. Hi Sally. Hi Pip. Hi Emma. Let me do some waves now. This is fantastic. Now before we get into tonight, I want to thank you for all of your messages of support over the past couple of weeks. We’ve been getting such great feedback about how much the plan has helped you, and it’s so lovely to get that, and to know that we’re making a difference. It’s been getting a lot of good feedback, and I was super excited to wake up this morning and see that the plan was featured in the Daily Mail. It was fantastic! So, thank you to Dr. Max Pemberton for prescribing our plan to your readers, to help them identify their triggers and better cope with their anxiety during this really difficult period.

Now, as I said, each week I’ll be covering one area at a time, but if you want to see all the tips at once, if you want to download the entire plan and maybe share it with your friends, it is free to download. You can go to www.altumhealth.co.uk/positivityplan, and you can download the whole plan right away.

Now, last week, we talked about how isolating the pandemic can make you feel and how important it is to reach out and rely on the people around you as sources of support. It may feel like you’re alone, but you’re really not alone. We’re all in this together. I provided you with some kind of creative and fun ways to do this when we’re locked behind the screen, and I’m really wondering how you got on. Did anybody try some of the tips? I know I’ve gotten some comments in the past, but it’d be lovely to hear now. How did you get on? Do you have any questions about that?

All right. Well, Pip is asking, “What do you do if your family’s far away and you feel like you don’t have people close by to rely on?” Yeah, that is tough. It’s really tough when you have family that’s far away, but you know, really everybody’s far away right now, aren’t they? And we’re just a screen away, and while it’s not exactly the same, it’s important to reach out. It’s important to call. It’s important to make those contacts, even though it can seem hard. And you have more supports than you think. In addition to the family that may be far away, you’ve got your online support groups, your chat groups, all the major mental health charities. As I said last week, they’ve really upped their game. So please reach out if you’re feeling down, if you’re feeling anxious. People are there to help, and I think you’ll find that as you start to open up and connect, a lot of people are feeling the same way that you are as well.

I’ve got Sean here saying that she’s found it really helpful. Oh, good, Sean. Thank you so much. I’m so glad that you have found the plan helpful and it’s just wonderful because that’s what we want to do. We want to help boost positivity.

Oh, we’ve got another question here. “It can sometimes be hard to ask for help.” Yeah, it can be hard to ask for help, and it takes a tremendous amount of courage to do it sometimes. But I promise you if you keep doing it, it’s a relief. It’s a relief because a problem shared really is a problem halved.

Now this week’s theme is about doing familiar things differently, and I love this one because routine is good. Routine gives us structure, routine gives us a bit of comfort, but too much routine is not so good. I don’t know about you, but for the first few weeks of lockdown, I was loving not getting out of my trackies. Just doing the same thing every day.

Fast forward a few months, I haven’t put a bra on in a few months. My legs look like the Amazon and it’s almost Christmas. I mean, how did this happen? This is a story that I’m hearing again and again from my patients, from my friends. I Cannot believe that it’s going to be Christmas next month. Now, how did this happen? I’ll tell you how this happened. I will tell you.

This lockdown has meant that we are stuck at home. There’s no change of scenery. There’s very little separation between work life and home life. Very few options for entertainment, to go out. Very few of us have gone on holiday at all. So little wonder, the days have bled into the weeks, have bled into the months, and here we are almost at the end of the year. Now getting into a rut is not good for your brain. Getting stuck is not good for your brain, and research actually shows that shaking up your routine actually helps rewire your brain and create creative connections through something we call neuroplasticity.

Through shaking things up, you can actually create new neural networks, new brain pathways for your thoughts to travel down, and that means when you can build these pathways that you’re psychologically fitter, stronger, more flexible. It’s like a gym workout for your brain, and it will definitely help you shake things up and get out of your rut.

So how can you do it? How can you do it when you’re locked up at home? Keep the daily grind feeling fresh. Now you may have heard a little bit about mindfulness, it’s out there everywhere. And I certainly encourage everybody to do a bit of mindfulness, but not everybody can make that commitment. So, it’s little changes, little fun things that just shake up the daily routine. They are enough to help create these new neural networks.

So, what are some fun things to do? I’ve really thought about this. I thought about things you can do on your own or with your flatmates or with your family, whatever you want. Move the furniture around the house, redecorate. You walk into the same room every day and it’s just exactly the same. You get into a rut. That’s enough to switch your brain from automatic into manual, and that’s what we’re trying to do here. Go from automatic in to manual.

Another thing you can do is we know we all have to eat, right? So why not have breakfast for dinner? Breakfast for dinner is great fun. It just shakes things up a little bit. Try being vegetarian for the day. You have to eat. Why not do it a little bit differently? Other things I thought you could do is brushing your teeth with your left hand. Now obviously if you’re left-handed, do it with your right hand, but if you’re right-hand dominant, try it with your left hand. Something we have to do every day. Something familiar, just do it differently. Shake things up, move from automatic to manual. If you go to work, if you are traveling, try a different route, get off a stop early, just walk a different way. It’s really important to stimulate these new neural pathways and shake things up a little bit.

Anybody have any questions or comments? Let’s have a look. Gym for the brain. Yeah, it is great, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s like a gym workout for the brain and that’s what mindfulness is as well. You’re teaching your brain to come back when you call it. I love that, and I highly encourage you guys to try that.

Now to shake things up a bit. One thing to help you do that is to actually create a little bit of a schedule. Being in a rut, you get into the same structure again and again and again. So, when you create a schedule, don’t be too rigid. Make it fun. Say, okay, tomorrow I’m going to do this. Tomorrow I’m going to do this fun thing, and the next day I’m going to do this fun thing. Otherwise, the time just slides away.

Just got a funny comment. Take the cat for a walk instead of the dog. That will definitely stimulate some new neural pathways and maybe a few scratches and maybe a lost cat. But I’d love to see a picture of that if you’re going to do that, Vicky. That’s fantastic!

So, we were talking about creating a fun schedule. Because you do tend to get into a rut and you say, I’ll do it tomorrow, I’ll do it tomorrow and you never end up doing it. And then you are in your trackies over and over again and it just doesn’t work. So, create a schedule, say when you’re going to do these fun things. But leave some time for spontaneity. Spontaneity is so important because it puts us outside of our comfort zones, and again, it stimulates creativity. It stimulates the creation of new neural networks, because if the only exciting thing you’ve got in your day is your next Zoom meeting, well then, you’re definitely going to be in a rut, and we can’t have that. So, sprinkle in a few little doses of impulsivity, a few unknowns into your schedule that will definitely shake things up and lift you out of your funk.

So, I’m excited to hear how you get on with this. How you’re shaking your schedule up, how you keep the daily grind fresh. So please let me know in the comments. Please use the hashtag #positivityplan so I can see you. I’d love to share next week with our watchers how you’re getting on with all of this. We want this to help as many people as we can. We really want to get this out there. People need it. So, share it with your network. Use the hashtag #positivityplan and I look forward to seeing you next week for week four of our plan. Have a fantastic week guys, and thank you for tuning in tonight.

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