Positivity Plan Point 4 – Try something new

[Recorded on Instagram 02/11/20 – Read the transcript below]

Hi there. I’m Dr. Courtney Raspin from Altum Health. And welcome to week four of our viral positivity plan. It’s been quite a week, and I know like a lot of you I am struggling to get my head around the news from Saturday that we’re about to go into a one-month lock down in England. And I know that the government is really trying to make sure that we remain physically safe and stop the spread of this virus, and that’s so important. It is our mental health that I am really concerned about.

People are already struggling with restrictions, they really, really are. And from Thursday we’re going to see the closure of restaurants and of pubs, and of indoor/outdoor activity centers, hair salons. Hair salons, I won’t look like this next week but what are you going to do? All sorts of businesses are going to close their doors. And while I’m really pleased to see that universities and schools are going to stay open, there are going to be fewer opportunities to engage in the kinds of activities that help us feel mentally fit, that help us feel good about ourselves and keep our mental health aloft. So I’m really concerned.

And those of you who are affected by job losses, not only do you have to contend with closures but there’s going to be so much more anxiety around finances in the future. So this combined with the fact that we’re heading into winter, there’s less sunlight, and the fact that we’re going into the holiday season which for people with depression and anxiety, and eating disorders is traditionally not a great time. What’s more triggering than a family and food? I really do worry. I’ve got some people joining us here so I’m just going to say hello. Hello Pip, Hello Lou, thank you for joining us tonight.

I was saying that we’ve seen such an increase in referrals at our service in the past month. But I was reading today that the London Ambulance Service is attending an average of 37 suicides a day, 37. And that’s compared to 22 in 2019. That’s a huge increase, so that is really a testament to how difficult people are finding things right now. So it is more important than ever that we take some time to slow down, we take some time to think really carefully about not only how we keep ourselves physically safe, but how we keep ourselves mentally safe and mentally well.

Because the structure, now the things that structure our life, the exercise, things in the groups and the hobbies, and the activities and the entertainment, all of that structure, it sits there behind us and it helps keep us afloat. It helps provide structure to our days, it makes us feel good about ourselves. And that’s all going to be taken away. So it’s going to take a little bit of creativity, a little bit of focused attention and a little bit of effort to make sure that you stay afloat over the next month. But that’s okay because that is why we’re here today. We’ve created this 10-point plan. 10 focus areas, one every week, each one is grounded in psychological research and is meant to help improve your mental health and keep you as positive as you can amidst all of this uncertainty.

Hello Emma, Hello Mike, thank you for joining us. So, last week we focused on the importance of shaking up things a bit. We talked about how COVID meant that a lot of us were falling into a rut, how days slipped into weeks, slipped into months and how that’s not only bad for your body, but it was really bad for your brain and bad for your psychological health. And depression and anxiety, those types of thoughts can really breed when you’re stuck in a rut. So it’s really important to try and shake things up. And our big piece of advice last week was to try doing familiar things differently.

We talked about how making these small changes and being spontaneous can actually help rewire your brain, help you develop new creative connections through which your thoughts can travel down. It’s a process called neuroplasticity, and we’ll be talking about that a little bit more today. When you do this, it stimulates creativity. It makes you psychologically fitter. It’s a great way to get you out of a slump. And I’m wondering how did you guys get on? Who tried to do familiar things differently? How did you get on with it? Please let me know.

I’m going to say hello, here. Hello, Life Ever After, thank you for joining. Come on, tell me, tell me. I want to see who did some things differently. Oh, Shawn, “I moved some furniture around in my home office. It really boosted my energy.” Yeah, it really does. You sit in the same room every single day, look at everything from the same angle. When you just move things around, your brain is forced to encounter new stimuli. You get those new neuro pathways happening. So fantastic, Shawn, thanks for sharing.

Oh, okay. Vicky, “I taught my cat how to play catch.” Vicky, I would love to see a video of that one. Please send us a video and we will post that in our stories. That’s fantastic, a cat that plays fetch, love it. So yes, it’s important to try and do things differently, try and shake things up.

Now, this week, we’re going to continue with the theme of shaking things up. But rather than focusing on doing familiar things differently, I’m going to be asking you to try something completely new, something you’ve never done before. Because learning something new fuels creativity. It can help build confidence. Learning actually changes your brain chemistry much in the same way that doing familiar things differently will. And we’re focusing on building those neural pathways, increasing your overall learning speed. And that’s what we want to be doing right now.

Now, people who struggle with anxiety and depression can have a bit of a hard time trying new things. This could be for a variety of reasons. Either they’re a little bit scared about not being good enough when they try something, or maybe they’re a little bit worried about judgment from their peers, all sorts of reasons why trying something a bit new can be hard. But remember, we’re all social distancing right now and it’s up to you what you share with other people. You probably have a lot more time and space on your own just to try something for you. And there’s no better time than now, because the teachers and the coaches and the trainers, they’ve all packaged up their offerings into an online option. My old singing teacher, she’s doing voice lessons online, It’s fantastic. So it’s easier than ever to try a new activity, to try a new hobby.

Now, I’ve got a few tips to help you get into the spirit of trying something new. Number one, make a list of the things you’d like to try but you haven’t yet had the opportunity to, or the resources or the courage to try. And I want you to prioritize those into three sections. The first section are things that feel possible right now. The second section are things that you might be able to try later. And the third section, may be something that feels a little bit far away, activities you’d like to aim for in the long-term future. Now that’s my first tip.

Now before we go into tip two, I see a comment here. Oh, Emma, “My daughter really enjoyed her Zoom ballet lessons during the last lockdown. I’ve decided to give it a go and join a class this time.’’ Fantastic, ballet lessons. I think I might try that as well. I used to do a lot of ballet. And sometimes as you get older you just stop doing those things. Yes, ballet lessons, excellent. One of my clients this week tried yoga, did some Yin yoga for the first time ever, absolutely loved it.

All right, so tip number two, if you’re feeling a bit ambivalent, if you’re feeling a bit reticent, start small. You don’t have to do everything at once. Choose something that feels possible, feels possible to you or seems a bit easier to you, or maybe something that a close or trusted friend can help with. What else? Give it a go, really persevere. Because sometimes the newness or the novelty of an activity can get in the way of you deciding whether or not you really like it or not. And I’d say give something a go three times, three times before you really, really make a decision as to whether it’s something you want to continue with.

And then finally, my third tip for you is if you tend to feel low, if you tend to feel lethargic or depressed, I recommend that you try something energizing and dynamic. And that’s to stimulate your sympathetic nervous system. And that is the branch of your nervous system responsible for increasing heart rate and delivering blood to your muscles. Now if you feel anxious, if you feel very easily overwhelmed I’d recommend trying something restorative or calming, something to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. And that is the branch of your nervous system that is responsible for calm and relaxed feelings. So that’s my third tip for you. The important thing is that whatever activity you choose, that it suits you and it helps take you away from the norm and the day-to-day.

Yeah, so those are the tips for this week, try something new. I want really all of you to get out there and try something new, take some action. So, share with us on your social media pages and your posts, showing yourself trying out a new hobby. And if you follow our stories, you’re going to see members of the Altum team trying out some new activities this week too. I might try some ballet because Emma’s going to try some ballet. And I might post that myself. And when you post something, remember to use the hashtag #positivityplan. Or tag me, @DrCourtneyRaspin so I can see what you are up to. I can’t wait to see all your activities. Go try something new, let me know. And I look forward to seeing you all next week. Bye, everyone.


Have you downloaded your copy of the Altum Health Viral Positivity Plan yet?  Visit www.altumhealth.co.uk/positivityplan to get your copy.

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