On this World Mental Health day...put down your phone & get outside.
I often hear things being over-complicated when it comes to emotional well-being, for me if we want to know why so many of our young people are struggling we need look no further than the research below...
lets consider some vital statistics...
the average adult picks up their phone 85 times per day
the average teen checks social media 100 times per day
the average 8-12 year old spends 6 hours on average per day on social media
the average american spends 4.7 hours on their phone a day...
that's over 4 years of their life...4 YEARS!
The average teen spends 9 hours consuming media per day (TV, video games, music, social media)
9 hours- that's more time than they spend sleeping..
Have you been caught up in a feeling, where you are feeling bad about something, overwhelmed, stuck or stressed? When they feel like this, many people sit still while feeling bad..they haunch over their computer..stare at their phone or eat something.
Research would say the fastest way to change an 'unwanted emotional state' is to move...change what you are doing, dance around, stretch, sing, get outside, go for a quick run with the dog pay attention to other things for a few minutes and notice then that you will feel different.
Movement is the foot in the door for emotional change.
It brings our attention away from the problem and back into the moment.
Why does this work? Because our nervous system is like an fantastic circuit...when we are sitting still and feeling bad all the energy we have is going towards powering that one 'problem'. When we take a mini-break and get out of our heads and aware of our body and MOVE suddenly less effort and energy is able to go towards the problem.
I think of it like the same circuit is now having to power 5 bulbs instead of one..the energy powering the 'problem' now becomes dimmer.
ALSO..if its nerves/fearful/anxious feelings then we are in a 'fight or flight' response, movement is a fantastic way to release some of the excess energy created by fear. In fact, its the fastest way, much better than talking about it.
Any movement is brilliant, you don't have to run a marathon but get out walking, jumping, playing, moving.
Nature is key
Movement is great, and even better if its done outside. Just being in nature, whether its animals or plants has huge health benefits. For me, most importantly it brings us back to the bigger picture and connects us back to 'now' and back into the present moment.
10% of teens report spending no time at all in nature.
Adults report spending less than an hour in nature per day, while they spend on average 72 minutes in their car.
and one more thing...
When people are feeling 'down' where are they often looking? When we see people walking on the street and look disconnected or sad..where are their eyes? When we look down, it makes it alot easier for our brain to be in 'inner dialogue' or 'self talk mode'... separating us from the world around us and keeping us more locked in our own head.
In modern life we are constantly looking down at our phones, at our work, at our tablets. When we are sad or stressed, we are often locked into 'self talk mode.' Next time when you are outside walking or anywhere in your garden...look up...look UP...LOOK UP and LOOK AROUND YOU...
What can you see? What can you notice? Can you feel the temperature? Can you see any birds or leaves falling, can you notice the trees? You can see the clouds?
This helps you in getting out of inner dialogue and become aware of your surroundings.
Come back into NOW.
If you really want to make a difference this World Mental Health day, if you are really serious about it...the simplest thing you can do is get out for a walk or some form of movement and remember to keep your gaze up..
Get the family outside for a walk. As a parent consider greatly limiting the access your young people have to media devices. Let go of the guilt, as they will thank you later. Would it help you to know that the silicon valley workers who designed social media having severe limits on it for themselves and their children, as they know how addictive it is. Read this article if you need more convincing!
If you are a young person reading this, make your own mind up and ask yourself: when I have sat on my phone for a few hours and wasted a morning, do I feel better or worse?
Make your own mind up.
It has taken me an hour to put together this post, so I am off outside for a quick walk in Ormeau park and a cup of tea..
Until next time.
Aisling Cowan is Mindcoach who deals with anxiety and other unwanted feelings. She works within a clinic that understands the importance of movement for physical and mental health, the Belfast Chiropractic Clinic on the Ormeau Road, Belfast.