Mental Health Awareness Week 2020|18th – 24th May

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. Since 2001, the Mental Health Foundation have campaigned around a specific theme for one week each May raising awareness of topics such as body image, stress and relationships. Mental health problems can affect anyone, at any time and so mental health is everyone’s business.

This year, the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Kindness’.

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Why Kindness?

During these challenging and uncertain times, the positive news that we have seen is always one of kindness. The bravery of our NHS staff and key workers. Captain Tom Moore who walked 100 laps of his garden to raise funds for our NHS. Neighbours getting the shopping for their isolated elderly neighbours. People helping people. The everyday acts of kindness that we are seeing all the time. And we saw this right from the start of the crisis. It is what makes others lives better and makes our lives better.

Kindness can transform our schools, work places, communities, and our society as a whole. As Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation says: “Acts of kindness can help improve emotional wellbeing. This is true whether we are giving or receiving it.” Kindness is clearly good for our mental health – both giving kindness (acts of kindness) and receiving kindness from others. Both can make us feel better.

In yoga, the first of limb of the eight limbs of yoga is called Yama – self-restraints. The first of the five Yama is Ahimsa. Ahimsa means ‘non-violence’ or more simply ‘compassion’ or kindness. Such is the importance that it is the first aspect of the eight limb path of yoga that is discussed. This involves kindness to ourselves and kindness to others. During Mental Health Awareness week let’s think about how we can spread this kindness to ourselves and to others.

How can I get involved?

During Mental Health Awareness Week you can carry out or reflect on an act of kindness. This can be anything – big or small  – every act of kindness is important! It may be an act of kindness that you have done or that you have received. And we can learn from one another! You can post about this on social media and may even want to add a photo or video (with permission!) and use the hashtags #KindnessMatters #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. There is no need to stop at one act of kindness either! You can do as many as you would like! However, do remember that we must always be kind to ourselves too – don’t overstretch yourself by giving too much of yourself if you’re not able to, or by going beyond your personal resources. Acts of kindness can of course be to yourself – self-care, recognising what you need in the present moment – be that space, a treat, or just permission to relax.

You can also share on social media your ideas on how you think we could build a kinder society that would support our mental health using the same hashtags #KindnessMatters #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. Let’s start the conversation. We’ve seen how kindness is so important in all our lives, particularly over the past couple of months. How can we take that forward?

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What are acts of kindness?

The possibilities are endless, and by sharing our ideas online, we can learn from one another. The Mental Health Foundation shares lots of ideas of acts of kindness that you can do during this week and going forward. You probably do many of these already without even realising how much your act of kindness means! Acts of kindness can be to others and also towards ourselves. Often we find it easier to be kinder to others than ourselves but we must remember that both are important

Some examples include:

Acts of kindness to others:

  • Give the gift of yoga with Yogasmiths to a friend for free during Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 – see full details below!
  • Call or have a virtual catch-up with a friend or friends – perhaps a friend that you haven’t spoken to for some time
  • Tell a family member or friend how much you love them and appreciate them.
  • Let someone know how proud you are of them
  • Say ‘thank you’ to someone  – show them you appreciate them and the work they do.
  • Surprise someone you live with to a homemade dinner. Or simply make them a cup of coffee or tea
  • Spend time playing with your pet! They’ll show you how much they appreciate it!
  • Give or send someone a small gift – something homemade or something you’ve grown is always nice
  • Offer support or just check up on your neighbours – many people are self-isolating and may be experiencing loneliness

Acts of kindness to yourself:

  • Relax and unwind by giving yourself time to do something that you enjoy – for example reading a book, listening to your favourite music, a warm candle-lit bath, a walk in nature, yoga, exercise, gardening, baking a cake, learning a new skill, etc. What helps you? Could you give yourself some time everyday just for you – be kind to yourself.
  • Self-care – look after yourself – perhaps this means having a routine, going to be bed earlier, giving yourself time to cook a healthy meal for yourself, exercise, yoga, mindfulness, etc. Taking time to care for your physical, mental and emotional health
  • Connect with others – call a friend or connect online. Join an online class or group.

Find our blogs on self-compassion here: https://yogasmiths.org/2020/02/17/self-compassion-by-kristen-neff-book-review/and https://yogasmiths.org/2020/05/07/mindful-self-compassion-course-certificates/

What are we doing for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020?

  • Free Yoga classes

    A0AE55FB-5FBA-410D-B7FD-090CC0D7424CDuring Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 we are inviting anyone who has attended one of our classes to give the gift of yoga to one of their friends who has never been to one of our classes before! All you need to do is send an email to your friend (remember to copy our email into the email: enquiries@yogasmiths.org) inviting them to attend one of our classes for free! That’s it! Your friend can then contact us and let us know which class they would like to attend. You can copy and paste the template below into your email:

(Title of email – Free Yoga Class! Random Act of Kindness for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020)

Hi

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 and the theme is Kindness. As my act of kindness, I would like to offer you to attend a free yoga class with my yoga teachers Yogasmiths before the end of May. The classes are taught via Zoom online video conferencing software.

Yogasmiths are Paul and Stephen Smith and are based in West Kirby, Wirral. To see the weekly Yogasmiths yoga timetable just visit:

Shop

And then email Yogasmiths at enquiries@yogasmiths.org to let them know which class you would like to book on to. They can then send you the details to access your free class!

For more details about Yogasmiths classes just visit https://pauls93.sg-host.com

Thanks and enjoy your free yoga class!

Terms and Conditions – you are only eligible for a free class if you have not attended an indoor Yogasmiths class in the past. One free yoga class per customer. The free class must be used by Sunday 31st May 2020.

  • Virtual Pub Quiz with Yogasmiths

Saturday 23rd May. All profits from this quiz will be donated to the Mental Health Foundation. You can book on to this quiz at: *event has passed* . Cost is £5 per person. If you’ve attended one of our quizzes before you know it’ll be lots of fun and it’s the taking part that counts! It’s just nice to all get together and have some fun.

  • Daily acts of kindness 

    We’ll be posting acts of kindness posts daily during Mental Health Awareness week using the hashtags #KindnessMatters and #Mentalhealthawarenessweek. These posts will include acts of kindness we are giving to others, to ourselves and acts of kindness we’ve received. Look out for these and let us know what acts of kindness you have given and received. We’ll also consider how we can all build a kinder society.

What else can I do?

Virtual fundraising:

If you do hold a fundraising event please let The Mental Health Foundation know about it – including any photos/videos. These can be sent to events@mentalhealth.org.uk. Fundraising or separate donations can be made to The Mental Health Foundation at http://mentalhealth.org.uk/donate

The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival has a special programme of online activity running all this May. Artists and audiences will be exploring what kindness means to them. For more information visit: http://mhfestival.com

Spread the word – spread kindness

The Mental Health Foundation has lots of posters, graphics, booklets and more available at http://mentalhealth.org.uk/mhaw

Stay up-to-date with what’s going on during Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond – follow @mentalhealthfoundation on Facebook and Instagram, and @mentalhealth on Twitter.

You can read more about the Mental Health Foundation’s innovative programmes, campaigns and transformative mental health research at: http://mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work

Check out our previous Mental Health Awareness Week blogs;

https://yogasmiths.org/2019/05/16/mental-health-awareness-week-13th-19th-may-2019/

https://yogasmiths.org/2018/05/19/mental-health-awareness-week-helpful-tips-to-deal-with-stress/

 

Mindful Self Compassion Course

Mindful Self Compassion course certificates

Mindful Self Compassion Course

Earlier this year we completed a Mindful Self Compassion Course in Hoylake Parade Community Centre with Rita Bennet and Pauline Johnson. The course was a fantastic experience. Here we run through some details about the course and discuss its benefits.

Each course runs across 8 weekly sessions and also includes a silent retreat morning. The course teaches you practical methods and techniques to help you foster Self-compassion.

Mindfulness teachers Kristen Neff and Christopher Germer developed and put together the MSC course. You can find links to their websites and work in the Further resources section at the end of this post.

The course was split over 8 morning sessions and also an additional silent retreat session. Each session has its own theme;

  1. Discovering Mindful Self-Compassion
  2. Practicing Mindfulness
  3. Practicing Loving-Kindness
  4. Discovering Your Compassionate Voice
  5. Living Deeply
  6. Meeting Difficult Emotions
  7. Exploring Challenging Relationships
  8. Embracing Your Life
Mindful Self Compassion Course
Steve & Paul with their Certificates of Attendance on the MSC course

The MSC Course provides you with 3 core meditations, 4 other meditations and 20 informal practices. This ensures that you can pick the practices that you like and that work for you. Likewise, it gives you scope to not have to do the practices that you do not find useful or do not like. This practical side of the course provides you with a toolkit of techniques. You can use these whenever you need to, dipping into your tool kit for the right tool!

Mindful Self Compassion and Yoga

The Yama are the first limb of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. Yama means restraint. Patanjali sets out behaviours that we need to restrain and puts this at the start of the Eight Limbs. Ahimsa is the first Yama in the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The sanskrit work ahimsa is often translated as non-violence, non-harm or compassion.

We tend to think of compassion as a giving concept. That we are compassionate towards others. However, compassion goes both ways and we need to consider self-compassion. In a yoga class for example this would be practicing to your own level and ability. Therefore, not being violent towards your own body.

Taking this concept wider, self-compassion is about being in tune with what we need at any given moment. Being kind to ourselves. Talking to ourselves in a kind compassionate voice. This is often the hardest part! We tend to talk to ourselves with the voice of a harsh critic. Talking to ourselves in a tone / manner that we would never dare to use with others. The MSC course helps you to begin to find a kinder voice towards yourself.

The Importance of Self Compassion

At this current time, the tool kit we developed as part of the Mindful Self Compassion course has been particularly helpful. It is quite a natural response during this lockdown period to have fluctuating moods and emotions. Consequently we can begin to feel stressed or anxious. Stopping and asking yourself what you need right now, is a powerful technique. Always remembering that you are looking at things that are within your sphere of influence. Do you need to sit and watch the breath? Or perhaps you need to offer your self a compassionate touch? Maybe you need to go for a mindful walk? There will be something within the Mindful Self Compassion tool kit to help.

Rita & Pauline

A quick word about Rita Bennet and Pauline Johnson. They are great teachers and facilitators. Rita is a fully trained teacher of Mindful Self-Compassion and also teachers MBSR courses. Pauline is a Clinical Psychologist and Mindfulness Teacher. Consequently as a teaching team they have lots to give their students from different perspectives.

Mindful Self Compassion Course
L-R Paul, Rita Bennet, Steve and Pauline Johnson

Paul previously attended a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course with both Rita and Pauline. Because Paul loved the MBSR course we both jumped at the chance to attend the MSC course in Hoylake.

As a result of reading this blog, if you are interested in the Mindful Self Compassion course, you can email Rita to register you interest. You can contact her at: ritaalicebennett@gmail.com

Further Resources

You can find our review of Kristen Neff’s book here: https://yogasmiths.org/2020/02/17/self-compassion-by-kristen-neff-book-review/

Purchase Kristen Neff’s book here: 

Find out more about Kristen Neff on her website; https://self-compassion.org/

Find out more about Christopher Germer on his website; https://chrisgermer.com/

Check out our Lockdown Resources blog here: Lockdown Resources

Here is a previous blog relating to tips for dealing with stress; https://yogasmiths.org/2018/05/19/mental-health-awareness-week-helpful-tips-to-deal-with-stress/

We are members of the Amazon Affiliates programme.

Self Compassion by Kristen Neff – Book review

Summary

A very interesting book looking at self compassion and how to foster and approach it. A book that I have filled with page markers and annotations for referring back to.

Self Compassion by Kristen Neff
A heavily tabbed Self Compassion book!

Review

Ahimsa / Compassion or non-violence is the first of the Yama (restraints) in the first limb of the eight limbs of yoga as described by Patanjali. When we talk of compassion we tend to think of this as an outwards thing towards other people. We often find it more difficult directing compassion towards ourselves. It is important that we practice compassion towards ourselves in order that we can be compassionate to others.

The full title of this book is Self Compassion – stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind. So, consequently the book sets out the three core components to self compassion; Self Kindness, Common Humanity and Mindfulness. Most importantly this book sets out how to limit self-criticism and its harmful effects.

The Self Critic

One of the most insightful aspects of this book for me personally was understanding the patterns of your inner self critic and where they come from. As a result of this, one can then begin to see that it is not your fault that you have a self critic. In fact, Neff wonderfully points out, we are all just human. We are not perfect and make mistakes, after all we are only human! It is this element of seeing the bigger picture that was also a moment where I sat and reflected. Neff describes this as the greater human experience, being part of the greater humanity. This has parallels to the concept of Ishvara pranidhana in Yoga, surrender to the divine. I often describe this concept as feeling a part of something greater than your individual self. We are all part of the common human experience.

The book nicely explains how the self-critic that we all have is a survival instinct. It originates from the fight or flight response and the associated negativity basis that we have. Our species survived because we were always on the look out for danger. We were able to pre-empt danger. We were able to criticise ourselves for doing things wrongly or for making mistakes. However, this is where the problem now lies. We are not in any immediate survival related danger in our western societies. So the self critic does not serve us well. Consequently the self critic is a source of stress and depression.

The Illusion of Perfection

A further part of this book that was quite insightful was the discussion around the illusion of perfection. The idea that we need to be “perfect.”

All too often , however, our minds fool us into thinking that we can, and in fact should, be other than we are.

Neff, Self Compassion p70

The above quote summarises a common theme in our self critic. It relates to any aspect of life. The book puts this in to context by stating that it is not possible for everyone to be “perfect.” If that was the case there would be no reference point from which to measure. One element of practicing self compassion is allowing yourself to realise that you are only human. Humans make mistakes and in all likelihood many people have made very similar mistakes to you time and time again. Rather than beat yourself up, allow yourself to acknowledge that making mistakes is part of being human.

This approach is therefore absolutely mindfulness. It is about seeing things for how they really are rather than through the skewed view of the self critic. It is about learning to respond to mistakes and challenges with self compassion. This is in contrast to reacting with the same old internal self critical voice.

The book concludes nicely with a chapter on self appreciation. Actually allowing yourself to appreciate yourself! Trying to adopt this as a habit.

In Summary

Self Compassion by Kristen Neff sets out an approach to allow you to be aware of your self critic and to approach it with self compassion. An approach that encourages you to console yourself and acknowledge your feelings and responses to any given stimuli. And to then move forward with self compassion, letting go of the self critic and the associated insecurities.

Further resources

You can purchase the book on Amazon here:

You can find out more about Kristen Neff on her website; https://self-compassion.org/

Here is a previous blog relating to tips for dealing with stress; Mental Health Awareness Week – helpful tips to deal with stress

World Mental Health Day

The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year. This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is suicide prevention.

The following link will take you to a blog on this years theme;

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/world-mental-health-day-suicide-prevention

The Mental Health Foundation have put together a suicide prevention advice poster;

We all have mental health and our mental health can vary from day to day. It can vary as we move through different stages of our lives and deal with different life events.

Mental Health can often be referred to as emotional health or wellbeing.

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Yet people talk much more about their physical health and often shy away from addressing the subject of their mental health. In general people do not like talking about their feelings but it is healthy to be able to know how we are feeling and to talk about how we feel and to communicate this.

Mental Health problems are common, you are not alone. The following statistics are from the Mental Health Foundations website;

As found by the APMS (2014), 1 in 6 people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem.
Anxiety and depression are the most common problems, with around 1 in 10 people affected at any one time.

Take some time to visit the Mental Health Foundation website where there is a wealth of resources https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

Talk to your friends and loved ones if you are struggling, speak to people and seek help.

Yoga can help us with greater self awareness so that we can become more aware of our triggers. We can become aware of the early signs of stress or anxiety and then we have an opportunity to try and deal with this at an early stage. This may be through breathing practices or relaxation or just taking some time for yourself. Ahimsa – Compassion – directed towards ourselves is a very important part of yoga. Practicing ahimsa is to take care of yourself – both your mental and physical wellbeing.

We all have to learn to live with our minds and we are all dealing with this on a daily basis. Some days it goes well and some days less well. It is something we all experience, when you feel low you are not alone, reach out and talk.

Yogasmiths Christmas Charity Raffle Donation to Wirral’s Homeless CIC

Thank you to all those who took part in our Yogasmiths Christmas Charity Raffle. As we discussed in class, Christmas and the start of the new year is a great opportunity to practice Karma yoga via charitable giving.
There were many prizes on offer;
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The winner of our top prize, a block of 6 Yogasmiths classes and a box of After Eight mints, was Lisa Shaw from West Kirby;
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We raised nearly £80 from the raffle. We have donated £100 to a local Community Interest Company that feed the local homeless. They are called Wirral’s Homeless CIC. They have a facebook page at;

Wirral’s Homeless CIC

They can also be contacted by email at:

wirralshomeless@hotmail.com

If you would like to donate any money to the group they would be most grateful to receive it and they accept bank transfer of a Paypal. Wonderful local groups like this are dependant on the generosity of others.

Namaste

Paul & Steve