There’s a huge body of evidence supporting the benefits of exercise in reducing the severity of depression symptoms and boosting mood. So if you want something that is sure to help, exercise is the place to start. Build up from where you are: what’s the smallest step you can think of to increase your activity level just a little bit? Maybe it’s just to stand up and do some stretches for 2 minutes, or maybe you are able to go outside and walk for 10 minutes. Start with a small goal.
One thing you can do today: Go for a short walk around your neighbourhood.
A good sleep routine takes time to get right but is also a foundation of mental wellbeing. Try to work on it step by step. If you normally get up at 2pm at the moment then set a goal to get up at 1pm. Try setting yourself a bed time as well to remind you what time you want to get into bed.
One thing you can do today: Try to keep yourself awake during the day and wait until night time to sleep.
Nutrition has an impact on mental health and eating something healthy can also be a great signal to yourself that you are taking good care of yourself.
One thing you can do today: Cook something simple but nourishing, a vegetable soup, a bowl of porridge, a fruit salad. If that feels like too much right now, how about drinking a big glass of water, or eating one banana.
Create a nice space around you. Open the curtains and let some light in, organise your things in a way that looks good to you.
One thing you can do today: Make your bed in the morning, or buy yourself a plant or some cut flowers.
One of the most challenging but most beneficial things you can do to lift your mood is to spend time with other people. For many people, going to a big meet up is a huge step. Think about what would be easier for you: there are many ways to meet new people one-one in Berlin, or perhaps a friend would go with you to the meet up, or maybe you can decide to go just for 30 minutes.
One thing you can do today: Call or write a message to one person.
Make a list of things that make you happy. When you’re feeling low it can be really hard to think of positive things to do, so having a written list of things you normally enjoy can help you. Some ideas for the list: read a book, have a bath, bake a cake, paint my nails, get a new app to play with, watch some nice videos of pets online, sing.
One thing you can do today: Start to make your list, you can always add to it later.
Good self care sometimes means taking yourself out of your environment and giving yourself a change of scene. This can be one of the most effective ways to shift your mood and give you a boost of positivity. These peaceful spots in Berlin can help you to release stress and enjoy some rest:
1. Botanical Gardens - the botanical gardens in Steglitz are among the best in the world
2. Vabali Spa - luxurious and relaxing spa with saunas and pools
3. Grunewald - leave Berlin behind and get lost in this big forest
4. Liquidrom - the flotation tank in Liquidrom is incredibly calming
5. Tempelhof - get some space from the crowds with this huge open area
6. Britzer Garten - enjoy the lakes and flowers in these quiet gardens
7. Mügelsee - take some time out at the largest lake in Berlin
8. Pfaueninsel - enjoy the magical atmosphere of this parkland and castle
9. Garten der Welt - let yourself be inspired by the creativity of these themed gardens
10. Treptower park - relax by the Spree in Berlin’s second biggest park
Many of my counseling clients in Berlin have trouble with sleeping. Most of us know what we ‘should’ do, but getting into good habits that support you to have a good night’s sleep can be difficult. Today I’ll share what I find helpful.
1. Keep my phone and laptop on silent and away from my bed
Both the hardest thing to do and by far the most beneficial. It’s so much easier to drift off when I know I’m not going to check my emails one last time.
2. Exercise in the mornings
Exercise is a great way to sleep better but it can disrupt your sleep if you exercise in the evenings. I feel good when I’m more active in the mornings, and more slow and calm and gentle in the evenings.
3. Stop working 2 hours before bed
I’m often tempted to keep going with work late into the night when I get into the flow. But I find that if I do that my mind is still in ‘work mode’ when I try to sleep. I try to make the last 2 hours of my day peaceful and relaxed.
4. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day
I like to keep a regular rhythm where I always go to bed at the same time without thinking about it. The hard part is getting up at the same time every day even when I don’t have any appointments. That’s where point 5 comes in:
5. Leave my alarm on the other side of the room
This one is surely not for everyone, and does feel like a form of torture sometimes. But I find that the pain of having to get straight out of bed to turn off an alarm is worth it because after 2 or 3 minutes I feel awake and ready to start my day. The downside is that I miss out on the joy of a nice snooze in the mornings.
6. Use light
I use a sunrise lamp to help wake me up just before my alarm goes off. Then I try to either go outside or use my light therapy lamp to get some sunlight within the first hour of the day. This helps your bodyclock to know that it’s morning, and therefore also know when it is time to sleep. In the evening I turn the main lights off and use soft lighting.
Those are my habits which help me to sleep well most of the time. Get in touch if you would like support to find your own healthy sleep habits.
Many of my counseling clients want to bring more mindfulness into their daily lives, but really making this happen can be challenging. It’s especially important for counselors to be mindful, so that we can really be there for our clients.
I think each person has to find their own way to go about mindfulness and today I’ll share my own way of integrating mindfulness into my normal day.
1. Mantra: Slowly Mindfully
When I’m doing something, like cooking or tidying up, I try to catch myself rushing to do it as fast as possible, and say to myself “Slowly mindfully”. Then I consciously slow my movements down for a few seconds.
2. 50% speed
I try to do some small tasks throughout the day at 50% speed. This allows me to focus mindfully on the task. For example I will decide to peel the potatoes at half the normal speed. I find that this slowing of movements really calms my mind.
3. Insight timer
I use the app insight timer to meditate. It has both guided meditations and a simple timer to time your own meditation. I find two main benefits to using this app: the app records a log of how many days in a row I meditated, providing some accountability; and the app makes it easy to quickly find a guided meditation.
I try to tune into my breathing throughout the day. I think about breathing into my stomach. If I want to release a little tension, I take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and then sigh it out. I imagine any tension being released with the out breath.
5. Looking at the trees
I look out of my window and ask myself to notice 5 things about the tree. I count five things on my fingers, for example: long branch, small green leaves, moving in the breeze, narrow trunk, top of the tree.
6. Watching the birds
I try to keep the habit that if I see a bird outside, I stop and watch it for a few seconds. This can be really uplifting!
7. Turning everything off
I find times during the day for silence, with no radio, no TV, no podcasts, and just try to focus on what I’m doing.
8. Lighting a mindfulness candle
I light a candle to create a calming atmosphere and to remind me to be mindful. Each time I see the candle I remember to smile and refocus my attention into the present.
9. Checking my posture
I check my posture, think about the word “dignity” and sit or stand up straight.
10. Feeling the breeze
I try to remember every time I’m outside to check how the breeze is: is it warm or cold, hard or very soft?
Those are some things that work for me. I often help counseling clients to find their own ways to be mindful. Contact me now if you would like to talk more about the support I offer.
Katie Knight, counselor from the UK practicing in Berlin