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

The story of a blind girl

Hello my friends,

I would like to share with you a story I found online which teaches us that we all have to be grateful every single day.
There was a blind girl who hated herself just because she was blind. She hated everyone, except her loving boyfriend. He was always there for her. She said that if she could only see the world, she would marry her boyfriend.
One day, someone donated a pair of eyes to her and then she could see everything, including her boyfriend. Her boyfriend asked her, “Now that you can see the world, will you marry me?”
The girl was shocked when she saw that her boyfriend was blind too, and refused to marry him. Her boyfriend walked away in tears, and later wrote a letter to her saying:

“Just take care of my eyes dear.”

This is how human brain changes when the status changed. Only few remember what life was before, and who’s always been there even in the most painful situations.
Life Is A Gift
Today before you think of saying an unkind word–
think of someone who can’t speak.
Before you complain about the taste of your food–
think of someone who has nothing to eat.
Before you complain about your husband or wife–
think of someone who is crying out to God for a companion.
Today before you complain about life–
think of someone who went too early to heaven.
Before you complain about your children–
think of someone who desires children but they’re barren.
Before you argue about your dirty house, someone didn’t clean or sweep–
think of the people who are living in the streets.
Before whining about the distance you drive–
think of someone who walks the same distance with their feet.
And when you are tired and complain about your job–
think of the unemployed, the disabled and those who wished they had your job.
But before you think of pointing the finger or condemning another–
remember that not one of us are without sin and we all answer to one maker.
And when depressing thoughts seem to get you down–
put a smile on your face and thank God you’re alive and still around.
Life is a gift – Live it, Enjoy it, Celebrate it, and Fulfill it.

Love always

Vassiliki xxxx