Covid-19: Mental Health Exercises to face this incredibly challenging situation No3

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www.mandaladotsforpleasantthoughts.com

Dear friends,

My emotional disturbance about Covid-19 could be dealt with the following psychological techniques which were especially useful for me for helping me to grow out of fear and emotional stress, into happiness, peace and emotional balance: Radical acceptance, gratitude, mindfulness, my lavender calming stone and forest therapy.
Radical acceptance improves the quality of my life. Butler and Ciarrochi (2007) define acceptance as “a willingness to experience psychological events (thoughts, feelings, memories) without having to avoid them or let them unduly influence behavior”. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s in, “Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness”: “Acceptance doesn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, mean passive resignation. Quite the opposite. It takes a huge amount of fortitude and motivation to accept what is- especially when you don’t like it-and then work wisely and effectively as best you possibly can with the circumstances you find yourself in and with the resources at your disposal, both inner and outer, to mitigate, heal, redirect, and change what can be changed.” By learning to accept this unpleasant event rather than struggling with it, I could reduce my experiential avoidance of perceived future threats and negative emotional experiences.

Psychological resilience has been characterized by the ability to bounce back from negative emotional experiences and by flexible adaptation to the changing demands of stressful experiences. According to the broaden-and-build theory, positive and negative emotions have distinct and complementary adaptive functions and cognitive and physiological effects. This theory posits that negative emotions narrow one’s momentary thought–action repertoire by preparing one to behave in a specific way (e.g., escape when afraid). In contrast, various discrete positive emotions (e.g., joy, contentment, interest) broaden one’s thought–action repertoire, expanding the range of cognitions and behaviors that come to mind. Positive emotions can also act more directly on physiology, dampening the cardiovascular system and the hormone system. In both cases, the link might be what’s called the sympathetic nervous system, the largely unconscious part of our nervous system that controls, among other things, the fight-or-flight response to threats. If the activity of the sympathetic nervous system were dialed down, heart rate would decrease; that is generally regarded as a marker of good cardiovascular health. Blood pressure would also fall, reducing your risk of stroke. Quieting the neuroendocrine system would lower blood levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine, the fight-or-flight hormones.

One powerful mechanism by which positive emotions could affect health is through immunity: They have been shown to increase levels of growth hormone and the hormones prolactin and oxytocin.
There might even be a more direct effect of positive emotions on the body. Some neurons in the brain, called sympathetic fibers, connect all the way to the thymus and lymph nodes, which are production factories for immune-system cells. Activating these neurons in the brain via positive emotions might therefore activate the thymus and lymph nodes, unleashing infection-fighting cells. Sympathetic fibers also release a slew of substances that bind to receptors on white blood cells, again priming them to attack invaders. This perspective on positive emotions might help explain why those who experience positive emotions in the midst of stress are able to benefit from their broadened mindsets and successfully regulate their negative emotional experiences.

Positive emotions solve problems concerning personal growth and development. Experiencing a positive emotion leads to states of mind and to modes of behavior that indirectly prepare an individual for later hard times. Two decades of experiments by Alice Isen of Cornell University and her colleagues have shown that people experiencing positive feelings think differently. Overall, 20 years of experiments by Isen and her colleagues show that when people feel good, their thinking becomes more creative, integrative, flexible and open to information. Even though positive emotions and the broadened mindsets they create are themselves short-lived, they can have deep and enduring effects. By momentarily broadening attention and thinking, positive emotions can lead to the discovery of novel ideas, actions and social bonds. Barbara Fredrickson and her students tested these ideas by surveying a group of people to examine their resilience and optimism. The people were originally interviewed in the early months of 2001, and then again in the days after the September 11th terrorist attacks. They asked them to identify the emotions they were feeling, what they had learned from the attacks and how optimistic they were about the future. They learned that after September 11th nearly everyone felt sad, angry and somewhat afraid. And more than 70 percent were depressed. Yet, the people who were originally identified as being resilient in the early part of 2001 felt positive emotions strongly as well. They were also half as likely to be depressed. Barbara’s Fredrickson statistical analyses showed that Gratitude was the most common positive emotion people felt after the September 11th attacks.

Feeling grateful was associated both with learning many good things from the crisis and with increased levels of optimism. Feeling grateful broadened positive learning, which in turn build optimism, just as the broaden-and-build theory suggests. So “feeling good” does far more than signal the absence of threats. It can transform people for the better, making them more optimistic, resilient and socially connected.

A number of studies suggest that the cardiovascular activity associated with stress and negative emotions, especially if prolonged and recurrent, can promote or exacerbate heart disease. The undoing effect suggests that positive emotions can reduce the physiological “damage” on the cardiovascular system sustained by feeling negative emotions. But some other research suggests that there’s more to it than that. It appears that experiencing positive emotions increases the likelihood that one will feel good in the future. Resilient people are characterized by an ability to experience both negative and positive emotions even in difficult or painful situations, she says. They mourn losses and endure frustrations, but they also find redeeming potential or value in most challenges. When not-so-resilient people face difficulties, Fredrickson notes, all of their emotions turn negative. If things are good, they feel good, but if things are bad, they feel horrid. Resilient people, on the other hand, tend to find some silver lining in even the worst of circumstances. While they certainly see and acknowledge the bad, Fredrickson says, “they’ll find a way to also see the good. They’ll say, ‘Well at least I didn’t have this other problem”. According to Fredrickson although the use of humor, laughter and other direct attempts to stimulate positive emotions are occasionally suitable, they often seem poor choices, especially in trying times. Based on their recent experiment with college students, her advice would be to cultivate positive emotions indirectly by finding positive meaning within current circumstances. Positive meaning can be obtained by finding benefits within adversity, by infusing ordinary events with meaning and by effective problem solving. So, you can infuse ordinary events with meaning by expressing appreciation, love and gratitude, even for simple things. And you can find positive meaning through problem solving by supporting compassionate acts toward people in need.

So, gratitude (appreciation) helps me to notice how much positive is in my life. I slow my life down, and I appreciate all that I have. My daughter, my husband, my dog, my home, a beautiful sunset, the flowers, the trees…
As a result, acceptance, gratitude and awareness of the present moment without judgment (mindfulness meditation) could help me to be better able to tolerate my negative thoughts and feelings.

But the most important healer for me is the nature. My lavender calming pebble also helps me to overcome my negative thoughts and promote mindfulness. When I repeat the powerful affirmations often, and believe in them, I can start to make positive changes. When combined with meditation and forest therapy this can have multiple benefits.
A study from Portugal found that people living near industrial “gray space,” as opposed to green space, reported “decreased use of coping strategies” and less optimism. These are just some of the benefits that scientists, academics and teachers have discovered occur when a person gets some nature therapy into their life:

●Reduces blood pressure and heart rate.

●Reduces anxiety, anger, depression, obesity, post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

●Improves sleep.

●Strengthens the immune system.

●Increases energy and vitality.

●Increases sensory awareness and perception.

●Promotes a healthy body-mind-heart connection.

●Increases brain power and clarity of thought.

●Increases self-esteem, empathy, kindness and compassion.

●Boosts creativity and intuition.

●Calms the nervous system.

●Relaxes an overworked brain.

A study in Environmental Science and Technology found a link between decreased anxiety and bad moods with walks in the woods, while another reported that taking a walk outdoors should be prescribed by doctors as a supplement to existing treatments for depressive disorders. The Journal of Affective Disorders released analysis that declared how every green, natural environment (not just forests!) improved mood and self-esteem, a crucial element for personal happiness, and that the presence of water — a lake, a river, the ocean — made the positive effects on happiness even more noticeable. Studies show that exercising in forests — or even just sitting in one — reduces blood pressure and decreases to stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenalin, which helps us to calm down.

Even looking at photos or drawings of trees has a similar effect. Researchers from Sussex University tested the brain activity of 17 healthy subjects listening to a variety of natural and unnatural soundscapes. When asked about how the sounds affected them, the participants reported that the natural sounds led to relaxation and a feeling of positivity, whereas the unnatural sounds made them feel stressed. Brain scans taken just afterwards backed this up, with researchers noting how artificial sounds activated anxiety related brain activity. Even research involving the use of nature videos of the forest or the ocean have the same physiological effects.

So, take care and stay at home.

Love,

Vassiliki

About vassilikiplomaritouhttps://mygreatteacheruk.wordpress.comHi, and thanks for visiting! My blog is a good place to find out more about me and my books. I am Vassiliki Plomaritou, a Greek mum of an amazing 27 years old girl and of a pug called Pumba. We live in Richmond, Surrey, a place that I was dreaming about for over 10 years. I wish the rest of my family was here with us, I miss them everyday and especially my little niece, Anna Maria. I love exploring new places such as parks, castles and villages with my husband, my daughter and my dog. Also, I love books, flowers and films, especially comedies. I am passionate about teaching children emotional intelligence skills that will last a lifetime. I have already published four books about emotional intelligence for children in primary school, a program for reading and spelling difficulties, another one for anxiety, fear and panic attacks and the last one which will be published in January 2019, is about the emotional intelligence of teachers. All of them are in Greek but I promise you that I will publish through my blog some important extracts of my books in English in order to show you all my love and respect. I have published one book in English “Charlie a boy with reading difficulties and his dream” which is an award winning book inspired by the real life of a young boy who experiences learning difficulties due to dyslexia. You can buy my books here and of course they are available in all bookstores in Greece: • The development of the emotional intelligence of primary school children: http://www.grigorisbooks.gr/product/1125/πρόγραμμα-ανάπτυξης-συναισθηματικής-νοημοσύνης • A practical resource for primary school children with reading and spelling difficulties: http://www.grigorisbooks.gr/product/1396/πρόγραμμα-αντιμετώπισης-μαθησιακών-δυσκολιών.-ανάγνωση-και-ορθογραφία • Without fear, without anxiety: http://www.grigorisbooks.gr/product/1670/χωρίς-φόβο-και-άγχος • The last panic attack http://www.grigorisbooks.gr/product/1724/ο-τελευταίος-πανικός If you would like to arrange a seminar on the development of emotional intelligence or a visit in Greek school you can contact me to the following email: plomvasso@gmail.com I will happily give you any information you need! I would love to hear from you! I apologise for not being word-perfect in English as it is not my mother tongue but I will do my best Love always, Vassiliki xxx

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