How to Activate Your Body’s Self Soothing System

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We all have a natural self soothing system that can bring us back into balance after stressful periods but it’s not always easy to tap into this, especially if you’ve been super anxious for a while. It can also go awry due to childhood experiences. Here’s some good news though: when you know how, you can activate your inner self soothing system and bring about a sense of calm.

Why Your Self Soothing System is So Important

A self soothing system is all about the way our bodies return to calm, even after you’ve been stressed. This is super helpful for making decisions and getting your body’s systems back into a state of calm.

With a self soothing system, you live in a state of heightened awareness. If you tend to feel constantly on edge and hyper alert to threats, it’s probably linked to not activating your self soothing system. It’s exhausting and leads to a lot of stress related physical symptoms.

Self soothing is linked to the vagus nerve, which runs from your brain to your gut. It’s tied into the parasympathetic nervous system (also known as the “rest, digest and heal” state). This helps to reset your body after it’s been affected by a stressor and brings you back to a more reflective state.

When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, your body is balanced and there’s a lot less stress on your heart and other organs. As an added bonus, lower cortisol levels means you’re also likely to have better immunity and find it easier to keep a healthy weight.

It can help you to reduce the “fight or flight” syndrome and the many physical effects it can have on your body. Struggling to break away from anxiety? It could be a sign that your vagal tone isn’t as strong as it could be.

One more thing to know about the self soothing system? Self soothing and self compassion in general is linked to the caregiving system. Because it helps you to release more of the oxytocin chemical, it brings about feelings of trust, safety, calmness and compassion for yourself – much the same as when you were very young and felt safe in your mother’s arms.

Self Soothing Activities

A few things that you can do to tap into your self soothing system:

Deep breathing helps the “out” breath to flow slowly and calmly. Ideally, you want your “out” breath to be longer than your “in” breath. For self soothing breathing exercises, you definitely want to be breathing from your diaphragm.

Spending time on a body meditation scan can also be self soothing. Go through each part of your body in turn, noticing the tension that you may be holding there and imagining it flowing away.

Going into a “safe” place in your mind can be a go to option for self soothing. The exact location of this place is going to be unique to you and can be anywhere from a beautiful, peaceful setting to a place you’ve always felt safe and happy in the past. Wherever your choose, go deep and focus in on what you can see, hear and smell in your “safe” place. This helps you to go back there whenever you need to.

Putting your hand on your stomach or across your heart can help you to feel calmer.

Massaging your forehead stimulates the trigeminal nerve, which brings the vagus nerve and self soothing system into action.

Hugs encourage the release of oxytocin, also known as the “love chemical”. You can get the same effect by hugging yourself and weird as it may sound, it can tap into your self soothing system.

Yoga can act as a self soothing activity as it helps to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system and encourages your body’s natural healing systems to come into play. It’s also a great way to bring cortisol levels down to a healthy level. The “touch” elements of many yoga poses also have a self soothing effect.

Mindfulness, meditation and tai chi are non judgemental in their nature and are super helpful for developing good vagal tone. They also release more of the neurotransmitter, GABA, which the vagus nerve encourages production of to calm you down and reduce anxiety.

Lying on the ground can feel supportive and safe. Pulling your knees up towards your chest in a nod to the fetal position is also soothing and nurturing.

Create Self Soothing Experiences

These typically involve more than one of your senses to really tap into the soothing effects. For example, you might look to engage your sense of smell, sound and taste by indulging in a scented bubble bath while also sipping on a delicious hot chocolate and playing your favorite music.

Self soothing strategies tend to be totally unique to you so your own personal go-to soothing experiences might be very different to other people’s strategies. Experiment with a few different combinations that involve your senses and see what works for you.

What is the Link Between Anxiety and Gut Health?

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When it comes to your mental wellbeing, your gut may play a much bigger role than you think. Research is now suggesting that there can be a very strong link between your gut and your brain, to the extent that your chances of developing anxiety or depression may  be heavily influenced by the health of your gut. Here’s what to know about the connection between your mental health and what’s going on in your gut.

Stress and Your Gut

The gut is heavily linked to your emotions and no doubt you have personal experience of this. We’ve all felt sensations such as nervous butterflies in the stomach or feeling sick when we’re anxious, which is physical evidence of the connection between your mind and your gut.

Stress can physically affect the gut in other ways too, including how it works. It can encourage the walls of the gut to contract, which can be a factor in bowel movements – especially diarrhoea. Stress can cause food to move through the digestive system more quickly than it would otherwise do and this can result in loose stools and frequent bowel movements.

Studies have also suggested that people with GI disorders are sometimes able to improve their symptoms if they receive psychological therapies to help them to manage stress and anxiety, and often see a better response compared to people who are only receiving “conventional” treatment.

What Science Says

Studies on mice carried out by University College Cork showed a strong connection between gut microbes and mental health. In particular, low levels of microbes in the gut were linked to depression and anxiety. The mice who were bred to be “microbe free” were a lot more anxious than the mice who had higher levels of microbes in their gut.

The theory is that microbes in the gut have an impact on key areas of the brain, notably the pre-frontal cortex and amygdala. Both of these areas are linked to anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.

Probiotics have also been the focus of some studies, with research suggesting that probiotics could even work as well as Diazepam and Citalopram in improving mental health and reducing anxiety.

How to Improve Your Gut Health

So, what can you do to get a healthier gut environment and help to improve your mental health?

Probiotics are a great place to start. According to some studies, they can reduce anxiety so it’s definitely worth increasing your intake or starting to take them for the first time if you suffer from anxiety. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and yogurt are examples of how you can add probiotics to your diet or you can try probiotic drinks if you prefer.

Prebiotics are another smart move. They aren’t quite the same as probiotics but they’re just as important – perhaps more so given that they help probiotics to work more effectively.

There is still a lot for us to know about the gut-brain connection but the evidence so far strongly suggests that your gut health can have an effect on how likely you are to experience anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. Improving your gut health can potentially do more than just improve your digestive health and can also have a knock on effect for your mental health too!

 

How Does Stress Affect Immunity?

stress and immunity

If you’re struggling with stress and anxiety, you probably also come down with more than your fair share of illness too.

This isn’t just bad luck; according to science, there is a pretty strong link between stress and immunity.  Here’s how stress can affect your health and immunity and some tips on what you can do to cope with chronic stress.

How Does Stress Affect Immunity?

Under normal circumstances, your immune system protects you by tackling bacteria, viruses and other nasties that could make you ill.

Stress affects your body’s ability to fight off these viruses and bacteria, which makes you more likely to be ill. As a double whammy, it also makes it that bit harder to recover, meaning it takes you longer to feel fully well again.

As part of the “fight or flight” response, stress encourages hormones to be released. .This would be great if you were dealing with a genuine threat to your life that required you to get away quickly but it’s bad news when the threat is a bit more mundane.

One of the hormones that is released as part of the “fight or flight” response is cortisol, which is linked to inflammation.

This should only be a temporary effect and once the “threat” is over, hormone production and systems in the body should return to normal fairly quickly.

But with chronic stress, it can mean that the “fight or flight” stress response is  switched”on” most or all of the time. And this leads to inflammation in the body.

As you’ve probably heard, chronic inflammation is said to be a factor in a wide range of diseases and conditions, including heart disease and cancer.

Chronic inflammation can pave the way for conditions such as arthritis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, lupus, fibromyalgia and psoriasis.

Cortisol also reduces the number of lymphocytes in your body. These are the white blood cells that would normally help to fight infection. Having low levels of these can mean that you pick up every cough and cold going and are prone to developing cold sores, for example.

In one study, researchers asked 276 people about the things that had stressed them out in the past year. They then gave them nasal drops containing the common cold virus to see who was most affected. Almost 40% of the participants did indeed catch a cold, and those who had reported having a lot of stress were twice as likely to be ill.

In the second part of the same study, researchers also looked at the inflammatory response of 79 participants before they exposed them to the cold virus. They found that those who had a weak inflammatory response to begin with also produced more inflammatory cytokines when they got ill.

Depression and Mental Health

It’s not just stress that can deplete your immunity. Studies have shown that depression is also heavily linked to lower immunity, especially in situations that involve chronic stress.

One study looked at depression in older caregivers and found that even mild cases reduced their immunity and this was still the case 18 months later. Researchers concluded that it isn’t how severe the depression is that affects immunity but the length of time that it’s been present.

What Can You Do to Deal With Chronic Stress?

It’s not always easy or even practical to avoid stress, especially if you suffer from a chronic health condition or care for a loved one, for example.

If you can’t avoid stress, the next best thing is to learn how to cope with it so that it’s less likely to have a big impact on your immunity.

A few things you can try include:

Relaxation remedies: The mind-body connection is strong but you can use it in a positive way by harnessing relaxation techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, visualisation and guided imagery.

Overcoming negative thinking: Negative thinking and anxiety tend to go hand in hand and can cause a lot of stress. Studies have shown that people with a positive outlook on life have better immunity so there are a lot of big benefits attached to overcoming negative thinking.

Building a strong support network: In recent years, loneliness has been flagged as one of the biggest risk factors for chronic ill health – potentially even more so than obesity and smoking. People with stronger support networks have been shown to benefit from better health and immunity.

Eat well: Eating a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is recommended for tackling stress but there are also foods that you should limit as much as possible. Refined sugars, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods are all best restricted as they can promote inflammation.

Exercise regularly: Exercise encourages feel good endorphins, which can boost your mood and it’s also a good way to relieve stress. There are benefits for immunity too as being physically active increases your body’s white blood cells, which can be depleted by stress. High intensity physical activity has the most effect on white blood cells.

Have some fun:  Laughter also increases your body’s white blood cells and helps to reduce stress hormones.

 

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What to Eat for Anxiety (And What to Avoid)

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What you eat can have a big impact on your health and wellbeing, and mental health is no exception to this. Some foods have been shown to have a positive effect on anxiety symptoms while others are known to make anxiety worse. Here are some of the key foods and drinks that can help to reduce anxiety, plus some of the ones to avoid.

What to Eat for Reducing Anxiety

Fruits

Antioxidants protect against oxidative stress, which can alter key neurotransmitters in the brain. In one study, anxiety has been linked to low consumption of antioxidants so it’s definitely worth upping your intake of fruit if you’re struggling with anxiety. Aim for as many different colours as you can to get a range of nutrients as well as antioxidants.

Salmon

Salmon is linked to a healthy brain, not least because it’s a good source of vitamin D and fatty acids EPA and DHA. All of these nutrients are thought to help to regulate the dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters, which are linked to calmness.

Adding more salmon to your diet can be an easy way to improve your wellbeing and it’s backed up by research too. In one study, men who ate Atlantic salmon three times per week also experienced less anxiety.

Turkey

Turkey is a good source of L-tryptophan, an amino acid that the body uses to produce serotonin. It’s been shown to improve symptoms of depression and social anxiety.

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut promote a healthy gut, which has a lot more to do with your brain than you might think. Studies suggest that eating probiotics and fermented foods regularly can be good for anxiety – even to the point of potentially preventing anxiety and depression. One study in particular looked at the role that fermented foods can play in treating social anxiety.

Turmeric

If you’re not adding this spice to your diet on a regular basis, you’re missing out on another chance to decrease anxiety symptoms.

It’s thought that turmeric may help the body to produce more of the omega 3 fatty acid, DHA, which is linked to key neurotransmitters in the brain.

Another factor is turmeric’s anti inflammatory qualities. This can reduce inflammation in the body and decrease inflammatory markers such as cytokines, which are also connected to anxiety and depression.

Water

Wondering about what to drink to tackle anxiety? Water is a great choice. Even being just a little bit dehydrated can affect your mood and how your brain functions, which in turn can promote anxious thoughts and feelings. One theory is that it is linked to a primal survival strategy to find water and stay hydrated but whatever the real reason, water is definitely one drink to reach for when you’re anxious.

Green Tea

Green tea contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that has shown potential for encouraging relaxation and relieving some of the physical symptoms of stress, including a fast heart rate.

Drinks containing L-Theanine can also reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Sipping green tea several times per day can potentially bring cortisol levels down so it’s a great choice when you’re feeling stressed and anxious.

Other studies on mice have suggested that green tea can reduce anxiety to much the same extent as some anxiety medications.

Camomile Tea

According to a study from the University of Pennsylvania, drinking chamomile tea for 8 weeks helped to reduce anxiety symptoms and promote relaxation.

In another study, taking chamomile extract for 8 weeks was shown to reduce anxiety symptoms and demonstrate antidepressant effects.

Unfortunately it seems that drinking chamomile tea doesn’t have quite the same effects for reducing anxiety compared to the extracts (which are stronger), although there is a lot more research to be done in this area before any definite conclusions can be made. One plus point in favour of chamomile tea is the ability to help to make you feel calmer. And that’s always welcome when anxiety is starting to take hold!

Foods and Drinks to Avoid for Anxiety

So now you know about the foods and drinks that can help to reduce anxiety, what about the main culprits in promoting it?

Caffeine

Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and one study even found that it can make you more likely to have a panic attack, especially if you’re already prone to anxiety.

Processed Foods

Processed and sugary foods are a double whammy for anxiety. They spike your blood sugar to begin with and then encourage it to crash. According to a study from Colombia University, it also increases your riskincreases your risk of depression and mood changes – especially for women.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can make anxiety worse for more than a few reasons. It can affect blood sugar, is dehydrating and can even change neurotransmitters in the brain if you drink regularly and in excess.

The more you drink, the worse it can be. One study found a strong link between social anxiety and alcohol dependency.

9 Tips for Feeling More Confident

9 tips for more confidence

Lots of us would love to have more confidence but it’s not always something that comes naturally for many people. If you’re lacking in self esteem, it can have a big knock on effect on your relationships, career and other key parts of your life.

Here are 9 tips for boosting your confidence and self esteem:

Overcoming Negative Thoughts

Negative self talk can be hugely detrimental for your self esteem. We all have an inner critic that tries to guide us through life and if yours is full of negative comments, it can become the norm to listen to it and let it dictate to you.

Negative thoughts happen a lot and can become second nature – to the point that you don’t even realise how many you have in the average day.

The first step is to become aware of when they happen. Don’t try to fight them too much; when a negative thought comes into your mind, acknowledge it and try to let it float away. This can take some time to get used to, especially if negative thoughts are a big part of your life. Overcoming them is a really important aspect of building your confidence.

Practice Positivity

Whenever you get a negative thought, try to think of up to 5 positive thoughts that will lessen its power and stop it being a “truth” in your mind.

Don’t just skim over these thoughts- let them sink in for a while before you acknowledge the next positive thought.

Surround Yourself With Positive People

How often do you find yourself feeling mentally drained after spending time with negative people?

This isn’t too surprising, given that experts claim that our outlook in life is made up of the 5 people we spend the most time with. If these people don’t have your best interests at heart and only end up dragging you down with their negativity, it’s not going to do much for your self esteem.

Spending time with people who support you and have a positive attitude towards you is a lot more likely to improve your confidence.

Face your Fears

Self doubt can keep you rigidly in your comfort zone and stop you pursuing your hopes, dreams and plans for the future. Breaking free of this is key for moving forwards in your life and making positive changes. If anxiety is stopping you getting involved in certain situations, gradually immersing yourself in them through Exposure Therapy is a scary but effective way to face your fears head-on.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

We all have one thing we’d love to have the confidence to do, whether this is changing jobs, setting up a dream business or trying a new hobby.

Low self esteem can make this seem daunting and impossible. Breaking the bigger picture down into smaller steps can make it less scary. Back yourself to take that first step towards it and don’t think beyond it. Then focus on the next step and so on. With each step you successfully complete, your confidence and belief in yourself should increase.

Challenge Limiting Beliefs About Yourself

Poor self esteem can often be linked to self limiting beliefs about yourself that stem from your childhood. Common examples can be thoughts like “this didn’t work out so I’m not cut out for anything” and “no one will like me”. It goes without saying that these kind of beliefs will hold you back!

Recognising that these type of beliefs aren’t automatically truths can do wonders for your self esteem but it’s not always an easy thing to do when they are so long held.

Focus on Your Strengths

If you have low self esteem, it’s easy to feel that you’re not good at anything. You may also feel inferior to people who you feel have talents and skills. Truth is, we all have strengths and weaknesses but with low self esteem, you can get fixated on what you’re not so good at and completely gloss over what you are good at.

Make a list of 5 things you do well and if you get stuck, ask other people to help you out. You might be surprised to know how other people see you versus how you see yourself.

Learn to Take Praise on Board

It’s incredibly easy to accept that any negative comments or situations are automatically true while not truly acknowledging any positive compliments that come your way. It’s common for people with low self esteem to assume that praise only comes through politeness or that it was pure luck that caused a positive situation and not your skills.

This kind of self talk needs to be swapped for a more positive acceptance that praise, compliments and success are a reflection of your skills.

Stop Trying to Be Perfect

Here’s the thing – perfection doesn’t actually exist and you’ll likely destroy your confidence trying to achieve it. You’re better off striving to be the best version of yourself you can be and realising you’re not a failure if you’re not “perfect”.

Becoming more confident isn’t something that will happen overnight. To be more confident, you’re essentially rewiring your brain and changing how you see yourself.

 

How Does Stress Affect Your Skin?

stress and skin

Stress can affect your skin in a lot of ways and can make some common skin problems worse, especially acne, eczema and psoriasis.

It can become a very vicious circle in which your skin becomes a source of anxiety and stress, and this then has an even worse effect on your skin.

Getting stress and anxiety under control can be one of the best things you can do for your skin, especially as it can have a knock on effect on diet, sleep and other factors that can also affect the state of your skin.

Here’s what you need to know about how stress can encourage existing skin conditions to flare up and have a helping hand in why they occur in the first place.

The Mind-Body Connection

Research has shown that people with skin conditions often experience stress and anxiety too and this isn’t too surprising when you think about the psychological effects that skin conditions can have on self esteem and body image.

Most of us know how quickly spots could zap your self confidence as a teenager and this feeling can be a whole lot worse if you have bad acne as an adult or you develop eczema or psoriasis on areas of the face and body that are obvious to other people.

Anxiety also be one of the culprits for fuelling skin conditions, and stress hormones play a big part in this, particularly where acne is concerned.

When your body produces more cortisol as part of the fight or flight response, your skin responds by producing more oil and this can pave the way for acne. If you notice that you tend to break out more during stressful periods, this is one of the reasons why it happens.

Stress can encourage us to eat comfort foods, often of the sugary and starchy kind. These kind of high GI (glycaemic index) foods have been linked to acne breakouts.

Stress can affect sleep patterns and this can have a knock on effect on your skin. Levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) decrease while you sleep but of course, this doesn’t happen to the same extent if you struggle to sleep well. High levels of cortisol can make existing skin conditions worse, especially eczema and psoriasis.

Stress can encourage tic behaviours such as picking at your skin or pulling your hair. These type of actions can lead to scarring and even permanent hair loss. Researchers aren’t entirely sure why people engage in tic behaviours but it may be that it’s a type of coping behaviour.

Tips for Dealing with the Effects of Stress on Your Skin

Unfortunately, we can’t avoid stress completely (especially in modern life!) but we can change how we respond to it.

Here are some tips for reducing your stress levels and helping your skin to be less affected by the effects of stress:

Keep up with your skincare routine: When you’re feeling frazzled and anxious, your routine can quickly fall apart and you may find yourself forgetting to take care of your skin.

Exercise regularly: Exercise can reduce stress levels and releases ‘feel good’ endorphins that boost your mood and wellbeing. Even a quick walk can be invigorating, clear your head and help you to feel bit better.

Set aside some ‘me’ time: Lots of us don’t take time for self care and this can affect your mental health and potentially physical health too. Having some ‘me’ time can be anything from enjoying a relaxing bath to spending time reading a book. The important part is that you’re doing something that benefits your mental and physical wellbeing. Even exercise and sleep are forms of self care if you look at it this way!

Set some boundaries: Some stress can be caused by not feeling able to say no to people or reject situations that aren’t going to be good for your wellbeing. Don’t feel bad or guiilty about setting boundaries for yourself and being more assertive. You may actually find that people respect you more for doing this (assuming you tread the line between being assertive and being aggressive!).

Hypnotherapy: If self care measures don’t help as much as you hope, you may want to try a more permanent way to change your response to stress and anxiety. Hypnotherapy taps into the unconscious mind, which makes it more powerful for changing the way that you think and feel. If you don’t deal very well with stress, it can help you to react in a healthier and more positive way so that the effects aren’t so evident in your skin.

 

 

Why Do Some People Get More Stressed Than Others?

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How we respond to stress can vary a lot from person to person and if you’re someone who is very prone to feeling stressed, you may well wonder what it is that causes this.

Why do some people respond well to stress but others are strongly affected by the same amount of stress?

There have been a few studies about this, which have put forward some explanations of why we deal with stress differently.

Theory #1 – It’s in Your Genes

Studies have suggested that the way you respond to stress can be down to your genes.

The culprit is a stress molecule known as nuclear factor kappa B (NF KB). This can encourage the “fight or flight” stress response, which can make you more likely to develop depression and even cancer.

Here’s the good news though: meditation can actually decrease the amount of kappa B that your body produces, which has an impact on the way that you then handle stress.

Experts believe that meditation can go as far as to change how we respond to stress and anxiety at molecular level.

Theory #2 – Electrical Signals in the Brain

A study on mice showed electrical patterns in the brain that researchers believe can predict how well they cope with stress.

In time, they hope that this could be expanded to also help to tell whether people are likely to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and other mental health problems if they are already badly affected by stress.

The study looked at the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, which are linked to both stress response and fear. The mice who were more prone to being affected by stress had more interaction between these two areas of the brain while being exposed to stressful situations and this was also the case before this too.

Even mice who were genetically identical responded differently to stress and researchers believe that this was the result of having varying electrical patterns in their brains.

 

 

 

 

What is Health Anxiety?

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It’s natural to worry about your health sometimes but if it happens a lot, you may be experiencing health anxiety.

Signs of Health Anxiety

With health anxiety, you worry about your health to the point that it is excessive and has a big impact on your life.

You may have a chronic health condition that you worry about or you may spend a lot of time worrying about your future health and whether you’ll get things like cancer.

With a more general version of health anxiety, any symptoms you have are viewed in the worst possible light.

What if that pain in your leg means you have a blood clot or your ‘missed’ heartbeats are a sign of something more serious?

These kind of symptoms often have a far less serious cause but if you have health anxiety, you’ll tend to bypass these and go straight to the worst case scenarios.  This is the basis of health anxiety: the relentless fear that you’ll develop a serious health problem or the belief that you already have.

You may spend lots of time looking online for information and see your GP on a regular basis because of your worries.

There is also another type of health anxiety based around avoidance. This can include tuning out of anything that may potentially make health anxiety worse, such as never watching programmes on television that may mention medical issues or not going to GP appointments. You may also avoid things that you think could put your health in danger when you have worrying symptoms, such as exercising, or sitting down (or even going to bed) when symptoms occur.

The Problem With Health Anxiety

Health anxiety can become a very vicious circle in that you’re constantly alert to signs that something isn’t right with your body and this can make you aware of things that you wouldn’t normally notice.

Most of the time, these things won’t be anything serious and they may even be signs of your anxiety. Your awareness of them causes more anxiety though and the cycle continues.

Being reassured that nothing is wrong can help to put your mind at rest for a short time but the anxiety usually comes back fairly quickly.

It may not be enough to get reassurance from a doctor as there is always a “what if?” lurking at the back of your mind, especially when more symptoms crop up. This usually means going back to the doctor to get new reassurance about symptoms but it can also lead to you wanting to get a second opinion from another doctor or arranging tests, for example.

Who Gets Health Anxiety?

If you’re an anxious person in general, your health is often just another thing to worry about so it’s not that surprising if you develop health anxiety.

Being affected by negative thinking patterns is another factor in whether you’re likely to develop health anxiety. This can make you more likely to think along the lines of “if it’s going to happen to anyone, it’s bound to be me”.

Stress can be another culprit, especially if you have health related concerns in the family.

Certain beliefs can fuel health anxiety too, including:

  • Any change to your body is a sign that something is wrong
  • A family history of certain health problems means you’ll get it too
  • Doctors can miss things or get it wrong
  • Having tests is the only way to know for sure that everything is okay
  • Not knowing that you are totally well could mean that you’re actually ill

These beliefs can be incredibly unhelpful and keep your anxiety going if you genuinely believe them.

Treatment for Health Anxiety

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is often used to treat health anxiety. This can help you to identify your thoughts and feelings and give you tools to manage them. Health anxiety is kept going by the negative, unhelpful and unhealthy thoughts that characterise it and breaking free from these is key for overcoming the hold it has on you.

A lot of the coping strategies that people with health anxiety use are actually keeping the anxiety strong in the mind, including focusing more on the body, constantly looking for reassurance, reading up on illness and avoidance behaviour.

CBT can help you to develop new ways to deal with health anxiety that are more helpful in relieving the anxiety.

Medications can sometimes be used too, especially if you have depression as well.

 

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5 Foods to Make You Feel Happier

5 Foods To Make You Feel Happier

If you’re struggling with low mood and feeling unhappy, it might be time to look at your diet.

What you eat can have a big impact on your mood, in much the same way that it affects your physical health.

Some foods can have a negative effect on your mood and wellbeing in general but on the plus side, there are also lots of foods that are known to boost mood and help you to feel that little bit better about life.

Here are 5 foods that can give you a natural mood boost:

Dark Leafy Greens

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Dark leafy greens in general are a great way to boost your folate levels. One study in particular has shown a strong link between depression and low folate levels so this is a really important nutrient when it comes to mental wellbeing.

Some of the dark leafy greens you can add into your diet include kale, broccoli, swiss chard and cabbage (the dark green kind).

Lentils

lentils can boost your mood and protect against depression

Lentils are another good source of folate and one cup can give you up to 90% of your recommended daily allowance of folic acid in particular.

Lentils have another important role to play for boosting your mood as they contain L-tyrosine, an amino acid that is used by the brain to make neurotransmitters (including dopamine). Studies have shown some promising results in using L-tyrosine to reduce depression.

Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin seeds contain zinc and are a natural mood booster

Zinc is one of the nutrients that can be lacking in many people’s diets and a deficiency can make you more likely to experience low moods and even major depression.

Pumpkin seeds have another secret weapon for mood though. They also contain L-trytophan, which is a natural mood booster and can help with serotonin synthesis.

Get snacking on handfuls of pumpkin seeds to combat low mood!

Eggs

eggs help the body to produce serotonin and boost mood

Eggs are a great source of nutrition in general but they’re the perfect choice for boosting your mood too.

Amongst other things, they contain essential fatty acids that help your body to produce more serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is closely linked to mood.

If you have low serotonin levels, you’re more likely to suffer from anxiety, insomnia and depression.

Dark Chocolate

dark chocolate with cocoa can make you feel calmer

If you always want to reach for some chocolate when you’re feeling down, here’s some good news! One study showed that dark chocolate can help you to feel calmer and more contented.

There is a catch though – to get these benefits you need to be eating dark chocolate that contains a good amount of cocoa.

The flavanoids in cacao are the key factor and these aren’t present in chocolate that doesn’t have much (or any) cocoa.

Unfortunately this means that milk and white chocolate won’t boost your mood in the same way!

If you’re not already eating these kind of foods on a regular basis, try adding them into your diet and see if they can help you to feel a bit happier!

 

5 Ways to Overcome Negative Thinking

5 Ways to Overcome Negative Thinking

Do you regularly find yourself thinking negatively about yourself and the world around you?

Most of us have negative thoughts every now and again but if negative thinking is a chronic, long term problem, it can have a very significant effect on your mental health and wellbeing.

At its worst, negative thinking can affect your quality of life and this can be a sign that you’re suffering from depression or an anxiety disorder.

Negative thinking can have a snowball effect and tends to be very hard to control. And the more you acknowledge them, the more these thoughts feel true.

Types of Negative Thinking

Negative thoughts can fall loosely into categories such as these:

  • Predicting the future – “I’ll fail at this” or “this will be a total disaster”
  • Reading other people’s minds – “They don’t like me” or “people think I’m boring”
  • Catastrophizing and thinking the worst -Expecting things to go wrong and seeing a potential downside to every scenario

Negative thinking is often “all or nothing” and very much black and white.

Whereas someone with a more positive mindset may see shades of grey in their thinking that they can latch onto, negative thinking tends to be at the worst end of the spectrum.

You’re likely to think about all of the things that could potentially go wrong rather than focusing on the more realistic outcomes.

Overcoming Negative Thinking

One of the great things about our minds is the ability to change things up. Your thought patterns aren’t set in stone and with the right tools, it’s definitely possible to swap negative thought patterns for healthier and more positive alternatives.

  • Find the “Grey” Areas in a Situation

Negative thinking usually leads you straight to the worst possible outcomes in a given situation so you’ll need to stop your mind from thinking in such extremes. There will almost always be a number of more realistic outcomes that you can focus on instead and these “grey” areas are where your mind needs to go to instead.

One way to do this is to write down the worst case scenario that is running through your head and then list some of the outcomes that are more likely to happen. This forces your mind to think about alternative outcomes rather than focusing solely on the original negative thought.

  • Reframe Your Thinking

It’s not always that easy to put a different slant on your thinking, especially if you’re so used to being negative with your thoughts. Being able to find a more positive take on a situation can help you to see things in a very different light but this often means that you have to go against your natural tendency to think the worst and this isn’t easy.

This is where Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or hypnotherapy can help you to refocus the way that you tend to think so that you can look at things from a different angle.

  • Not Over Generalizing Situations

Negative thinking often blows situations out of all proportion so that they take on much more significance than they probably should do. For example, a date that doesn’t work out can leave you thinking that “I’ll never meet anyone” or I’ll never be happy”.

If negative thinking wasn’t controlling your mindset, you’d be much more likely to chalk it up to just not being compatible with your date rather than fearing that it sets a precedent for the future.

  • Not “Mind Reading” Situations

Another big part of negative thinking is “mind reading” a situation when you don’t actually have the evidence to back up your fears.

If someone doesn’t text you back, you may jump to the conclusion that they don’t like you, for example. In reality, it’s a lot more likely that they’re just busy and haven’t had chance to respond yet or they were in the middle of something when they got your text and have forgotten to reply.

Neither of these scenarios is any reflection of how they feel about you

  • Spending Time in the Moment

Being “in the moment” gives you the opportunity to pull back from your thoughts and focus your attention elsewhere, namely on the things around you rather than yourself.