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My understanding has changed. Previously it would just have been just about the state of my thinking and feeling. It’s evolved over time, I find it tricky to think of mental wellbeing in a silo, separated from all other forms of wellbeing. I like to think of wellbeing in a holistic sense, operating from a space of groundedness, and hope.
For a little while during lockdown, life felt like one big long run-on sentence—all commas and no full stops. I’ve experienced a real mixed bag of emotions this time with little bouts of grief, cabin fever, overwhelm, despair, but also gratitude, surrender, love, appreciation.
In lockdown at the moment, I usually wake up around 7, invite Nacho the pup up onto the bed for a snuggle. Sit outside if it’s not raining for 5 minutes of deep belly breathing, and 10 minutes of stretching and some sun salutations. Nacho, Cam and I go for our daily walk around Mt Eden. We have eggs on toast and coffee for breakfast. Shower, dress, write out a list of things to do for the day.
I learned these two words not long ago. Kensho and satori, Kensho is the experience of growth through pain, and satori is the experience of growth through insight.
Through my mental health journal, I have experienced lots of kensho, growth through pain. These are my favourite insights:
• You can’t hate yourself into a version of yourself you love.
• Nothing bad will happen if you are kind to yourself.
• All the times I thought I wouldn’t make it, I was wrong. Here I still am, I’m very resilient.
• People are the most important thing in this life. I think so anyway.
• You have to put yourself in the way of satori moments. Kensho moments will find you.
Moon Turtle: A Mood Journal I initially made just for me to use. It only really came to be through an assignment at design school for which we had to make a book—anything we wanted, but just hand in a book in two weeks time. At the time I was seeing a psychologist fortnightly, and obsessively documenting my life between appointments and beginning to connect dots between diet, lifestyle, and cognitive factors and how they affected how I thought and felt. After three months of daily journaling on a range of factors, I noticed a substantial improvement in my mental health.
I figured, if this journaling had helped me, maybe it could help other people too. I designed a template that people could fill in daily in around 5-10 minutes to keep tabs on these factors to see if they could pick up any patterns.
The silly little name? Near the beginning, I was in a bar with a friend telling him I was designing a mood journal. He yelled back over the hubbub, “what the fuck’s a moon turtle?!”
Deep belly breathing
We can regulate our nervous system by deliberately controlling and slowing down our breathing. A good place to start is with box breathing—inhale deeply over four counts, hold for four counts, exhale softly over four counts. Repeat for 5 rounds. This is a handy tool to have up your sleeve if you’re experiencing anxiousness.
At some point you may have experienced feeling totally overwhelmed in your head, and then you tell someone about what’s going on in there, and it suddenly doesn’t seem as big as you were reacting to. Thoughts can fester in our head. When we get them out through talking or writing, we can stop the cycle of rumination—thinking about things over and over.
Keep a close watch on the little voice in your head. Watch to see how often it tells you things you would never dare say to a loved one. It feels yuck when someone says nasty things to us, notice if you’re creating that yucky feeling by saying nasty things to yourself. You might not even notice it’s happening. Next time you catch yourself, challenge that little voice to show up in kindness.
There are so many nurturing habits, and you don’t need to be doing all of them. Always start with the basics—drink water, breathe deeply and mindfully, eat whole foods, move your body in some way that is enjoyable for you, plan to get adequate sleep and rest, practice kindness, practice gratitude, tell your friends you love them, be your own best mum. The “little things” are big things. These also aren’t necessarily going to make up the whole picture, there will absolutely be other factors that need to be addressed depending on the person—we’re all different. But these things will absolutely help towards make a difference.
I like to think of it like a recipe. Some ingredients are more important than others, some are seasonal, some recipes we use are short, some are long, we use different recipes at different times, changing one of the ingredients affects how the recipe turns out. My recipe changes all the time, but at the moment, my top ingredients are: daily deep belly breathing, a high-quality multivitamin and fish oil, journaling once or twice a week, pats with Nacho—she’d be the best therapy pup out. I’ll be sure to spread the good word if her services are ever publicly available.
*I know supplements get a bad rap. Lots of them are pretty useless. But, did you know: the micronutrients are an essential ‘resource’ for producing neurotransmitters like GABA, serotonin and dopamine that allow us to experience feeling happy and at ease. Quality is key! I love BePure.
What’s on your mind? What’s on your heart?
Empty out the contents—big, small and everything in between. Go wild, don’t feel silly. No one’s going to read it, even you don’t have to read it after you’re done. Better out than in, as Shrek always says.
What sources of ‘light’ in your life can you identify?
I like to stay away from the ‘G’ word, it feels like it's lost a bit of its depth and magic. I like to think about it this way instead: You know how plants grow towards the light? This is called the Heliotropic Effect. How can you channel your inner sunflower, and practise being heliotropic? What in your experience is life-affirming?
What intention do you need to set right now?
Think of an intention as a one of two word resolve, a way of being. What would you like more of in your life at the moment? Pick your intention, place it at the forefront of your mind. What does it look like in terms of tangible actions to live from a place of embodying this intention? Mine at the moment is ‘compassion’. How can I make generous assumptions of others and myself?
How can you be of service to others?
I can see a lot of the self-care movement ends with looking after the self. But when we don’t acknowledge our role in the collective, self-care can slide into narcissism. Both facets—taking care of yourself, and taking care of others—are equally as important. Have a think about 5 ways you can support, love, encourage, uplift those around you?
Music: I’m a yuge Chelsea Jade fan — a Superfan one might say. I find her music to be almost meditative. If I’m stressed, I’ll listen to Under on loop until I mellow out.
Movement: Less is more — walking and yin yoga I find to be deeply restorative for my whole being.
Alone time!: I love spending time with nourishing people, but I’m very much an introvert, and alone time is an essential part of my wellness recipe.
@werenotreallystrangers — Ask the confronting questions of yourself, ask them of others. Break down the barriers!
@Hara_thelabel — It’s not even the undies, though damn they look comfy! Hara’s gravitational force of beauty and acceptance has such pull! With every post from Hara, I feel myself becoming softer and more loving.
@yumisakugawa — For when you need an insightful, firm, passionate, and wise pep talk, Yumi has got you.
@junkmanbaby — I’d be hiding my authentic self if I didn’t make a mention of Junkmanbaby. It’s for anyone who finds that the weird and the silly really fires them up like it does me.