By Lily Kingston, a BSc (hons) Nutritional Therapy ION student
As I get older, I realise more and more that I can’t escape my bad thoughts. There are plenty of coping mechanisms which most young people experiment with such as alcohol and smoking, but they are just a temporary fix. After engaging in these unhealthy coping mechanisms, I soon after find myself stuck in a deep cycle of negative thoughts again. When I was 15, these temporary fixes used to be enough to give my brain a chance to stop ruminating. I would be satisfied with my temporary pause of negativity. Although, it did not take long until I recognized that these ‘fixes’ were not enough for me.
I think it is so valuable to be able to learn a positive way of dealing with negative thoughts. We will always have some negative thoughts and that is perfectly natural. Humans have 6000+ thoughts a day, so of course its understandable that some of them are unhelpful. Our brains are wired to grab hold of the negative thoughts. This way of thinking benefited us in prehistoric times to help keep us safe.
It has taken me some years to truly find what works for me, to lift my mood, to stop my ruminating thoughts and to approach them in a healthier way. These 4 activities have helped me time and time again to cope with negative feelings.
Writing about an emotional event can help stop the continuous cycle of obsessive thoughts and can help you understand the situation better. The act of putting an experience into words can help you see a new perspective about your thoughts. There have been several studies that show people with anxiety and depression who journalled for 15 minutes three days a week over a 12-week period had increased feelings of well-being and fewer anxious and depressive symptoms after one month. That is really promising! Its free, its accessible, and can be done any time of the day, and that is also why I think it is such a reliable coping mechanism.
Walking in green spaces
Whether it’s taking a walk to clear your mind or smelling flowers in your neighbours garden, getting outside is a sure way to take your mind off your problems and be in the present. Walking outside can help reduce our stress hormones and lower both our pulse and blood pressure. Being outside for just 20-30 minutes can have these effects. It is another free activity to do to take you out of your head. Being outside is a great way to practice mindfulness and tune out all the extra stressors in your life. Just simply listening to the noises of the birds, the children playing, people laughing or the trees rustling. You may even feel more energized after spending time outside! Being out in the sun can boost our serotonin levels which are our feel good hormones, boosting your mood and overall self-esteem.
Some outdoor activities include:
- Walking, running, hiking
- Go camping
- Outdoor yoga or meditation
- Bike riding
Cooking is a time to take a healthy break from your thoughts, by immersing yourself in another activity and putting your focus elsewhere. There’s a self-care element in cooking. When you cook, you have chosen to prioritize time to connect with yourself and return to the present moment. I like to look at is as if I am nourishing myself or someone I am cooking for, and that creates a lot of positive emotions. When we cook, we feel a sense of accomplishment for what we have created. This increases our self-confidence and positive feelings and makes us more likely to cope better with our thoughts.
Talking to a trusted person
It can be hard to talk to people about how you feel. You may be worried that they won’t take your feelings seriously. You may also be thinking about what will happen after you tell them your problems. An important first step is deciding who you want to talk to. You need to feel that you can trust the person you are talking to. Studies have shown that talking about our problems and sharing our negative emotions with someone we trust can be very healing. It lowers our stress levels, strengthens our immune system, and reduces emotional distress. When you talk to someone, it can help you see your situation more clearly, or even look at the problem in a different way. Most importantly, you can find out that you are not alone, and that other people may share your feelings too. Knowing that someone relates to what you are feeling or can understand your feelings can be very therapeutic.
So- take care of yourselves, reach out to each other for support, and remember a problem shared is a problem halved!
For help, advice and resources whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.
- Support from NTU
- Self-Care books in NTU’s libraries
- Silvercloud: SilverCloud is our online system designed to help with a range of mental health issues.
- Health and Wellbeing resources
- NTSU Information and Advice service
- Wellness in Mind: Advice and support for anyone in Nottingham experiencing issues with their mental wellbeing
- Student Minds or Student Space
- 10 Keys to happiness