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7 surprising things I discovered when I tried a ‘brain sensing’ meditation headband

Muse 2 brain sensing headband
Credit: Interaxon Inc

It’s not every day that you stumble across the sight of two men wearing sci-fi-esque headbands but that’s exactly what happened to me when I attended the Mindful Living Show earlier this year.

Both chaps were seated in an upright position. Both had their eyes closed. And both looked blissfully at peace – quite a feat in a hall awash with people.

It turned out they were meditating with the help of a ‘brain sensing’ headband called Muse 2.

I was fascinated. Meditation has long been touted as a way to reduce stress, tackle anxiety, improve creativity and enhance focus but for many of us, it’s not an easy thing to do.

That’s why Interaxon, the Canadian company behind Muse, launched the headband.

So how does the Muse 2 ‘brain sensing’ meditation headband work?

The research-grade EEG (electroencephalograph) technology uses sensors on the band and arms to monitor heart rate, brain activity, breathing patterns and body movement. This real-time information is transmitted to the Muse app on your smartphone and used to shape your meditation experience based on how your body is responding.

So, imagine you’ve had a stressful day and need to clear your head. You might opt for the ‘mind’ meditation coupled with, say, the rainforest soundscape.

The sensors detect when your mind is busy by triggering the sound of monsoon-like weather but when you start to unwind it quietens to a drizzle and eventually stops if you remain calm. You know you’ve hit a prolonged period of relaxation when birdsong is heard.

The idea is that with regular use you effectively train your brain to become more in tune with your body and become aware of your active, neutral and calm states.

At the end of the session, your performance is captured in a graph which enables you to track your progress.

I gave the Muse 2 a quick try at the show but was lucky enough to test it again at home for a longer period as part of the day job.

Here’s how I got on.

Muse 2 brain sensing headband

Credit: Interaxon Inc

7 surprising things I discovered when I tried the Muse 2 ‘brain sensing’ meditation headband

1.Be prepared to be surprised

There are four experiences to choose from: mind, heart, body and breath as well as a selection of relaxing soundscapes – from desert and beach-themed to ambient music, wind chimes and the sound of a beating drum depending on your choice of meditation. It’s worth testing out all the options to see what works for you.

I assumed the ocean would be my favourite as I love the sea but the crashing waves  – which signal an active mind – left me feeling rather uncomfortable. My brain refused to stop wandering and I couldn’t settle the water. I didn’t get on with the ambient music either – it felt eerie.

However, I adored the rainforest option for the ‘mind’ meditation

Now, I’ve written before about my love for Barbados and although the island does not have a rainforest, the noise of the heavy rainfall – which on Muse indicates an active mind – reminded me of the downpours experienced in the Caribbean. During my session, the showers never lasted very long and on many occasion – sometimes as early as 30 seconds in – the joyous chirping birds would announce themselves suggesting a very calm state.  At night I chose the ‘heart’ experience where a beating drum mimics the rhythm of your heart. This practice turned out to be a soothing and relaxing way to end the evening and it hugely helped my sleep (see No.6)

2. Meditation can be fun

Okay. I know it’s probably not supposed to be. The whole point of such a practice is to achieve a calm, zen-like, non-emotional state, isn’t it? But if you’re a beginner who finds it hard to meditate, are easily bored, too busy to relax then the Muse 2 headband could be the introduction you need. Personally, I find it impossible to just sit and be still without help. I’ve always preferred guided options like the Headspace or Calm apps. Heck, I’ve even attended a group meditation class. However, I loved this new approach and selection of meditation sessions to suit your mood. The tweeting bird feature is genius.

3. It can make you competitive

Yes. Those tweeting birds are great because the moment you hit that calm state you feel incredible. It’s addictive though. I found myself desperate to hear the birds and was sorely disappointed when their beaks remained firmly closed for one of my sessions. Being sporty by nature – well, I was until my chronic illness took hold – I’m naturally competitive, especially with myself as this practice revealed! I appreciate this goes against the whole ethos of letting go, and releasing all expectation but the very nature of being able to track your progress and build on your improvements means (well for me anyway) you’re always striving to do better. As with anything, practice makes perfect so I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing although some may disagree.

Muse 2 brain sensing headband

Credit: Interaxon Inc

4. You have the time to meditate even if you think you don’t

It’s hard to switch off when you’re self-employed and, like many people, I barely seem to have a spare moment. But the design of the app makes it easy. Even if you meditate for one minute a day in the morning and one minute at night that’s two minutes a day which is 14 minutes a week, which is almost an hour a month.  That’s better than doing nothing at all and, chances are, you’ll feel so good that you won’t stop at one minute. I certainly didn’t.

5. It makes you aware of bad habits

As mentioned, my first foray into Muse 2 was with the Mind (rainforest) experience. I tried just three minutes at first. My mind was calm for 1 minute 16 seconds, neutral for 1 minute 8 seconds and active for six seconds. In that time, I accrued 12 birds, signalling I’d hit a super relaxed state.

For session two I upped the duration to five minutes. I was thrilled to see my brain remained calm for three minutes and 37 seconds, neutral for 1 minute 23 seconds and there were 0 minutes under the active tab. Wahoo. I’d also amassed an impressive 26 birds!

That was at 10.03pm. A quick dabble on social media – namely Instagram – followed and at 10.22pm I thought I’d have one more three-minute session. OH BOY.

I was staggered at how quickly my mental state had altered. I only managed five birds, my calm reading fell to 1 minute 23 seconds and my neutral result came in at 1 minute 37 seconds.

I often try to switch off my devices before bed and this is a stark reminder of why I need to do it.

My brain had been in such as calm state after session two and I’d swiftly undone my good work with a quick Insta scroll!

Muse 2 brain sensing headband

Credit: Interaxon Inc

6. It can help you sleep when you think you can’t

I’m not the best sleeper. I can lie awake for hours tossing and turning and even when I do eventually nod off I wake several times in the night. One evening, around 7.12pm, I did a 20-minute Mind meditation in five-minute increments. My calm state rose from 26% to 60% by the end of the session.  I dropped off quickly and slept through the night. I was flabbergasted. I assumed it was a fluke but the same thing happened again two days’ later!

7. It can change your behaviour

Whether I’m by the sea, on a mountain or walking in the forest I instantly feel at peace and connected to nature, which is probably why I repeatedly chose the rainforest soundscape.

Well, the other day I was working from home, on deadline, quite stressed and opened the window to get some fresh air. I instantly became aware of the birds chirping in the garden and a sense of calm washed over my body. It was a noticeable shift. I then realised the birdsong reminded me of the calm state experienced during the Muse sessions.  My brain had been trained to recognise this and I was blown away when it worked especially as I hadn’t meditated for a while. Bonus!

The Muse 2 meditation headband costs £239. For more information visit  choosemuse.com

If you enjoyed this post you might like to read the following:

Can mindfulness save your relationship? 

The Surprising thing I discovered when I tried flotation therapy 

Review: The CBT Journal (how to avoid feeling stuck)

7 ways to stop making life so stressful 

REVIEW: The Stress Solution by Dr Rangan Chatterjee

Health, Wellness

7 ways to stop making life so stressful

7 ways to stop making life so stressful

Think of a stressful event and chances are moving house, divorce or death spring to mind.

Yet according to TV psychologist Honey Langcaster-James, constant small stressors that build up every day can have a big effect on our emotional and mental health if left unchecked.

“Individually, each of these little niggles may not seem like much,” she says. “But our busy lives mean we are now bombarded with a huge number of them every day which can overwhelm our system.”

According to recent research from Compeed, Britons spend 36 minutes – up to two years of their lives – letting things get on their nerves.

Of 1,001 people quizzed by the blister brand, 84% admitted that something little riles them at some point each day, while 81% spend up to two hours every day letting minor things bother them.

Bad manners topped the list of Britain’s biggest bugbears, followed by anti-social behaviour on public transport, litter louts, and glory grabbers – people who steal promotion-winning ideas in the office.

Technology – especially phone snubbing, also known as ‘phubbing’, irritated 78% of respondents.

“People can end up suffering from what I call the ‘Buckeroo’ effect where they gradually get overwhelmed by lots of little stressors so that eventually it only takes one small thing to set them off,” adds Honey.

Below the social and behavioural psychologist shares 7 tips for calmer living.

7 ways to stop making life so stressful

BEING A PERFECTIONIST

It’s natural for us to want to do our best but sometimes this leads to perfectionist tendencies, where only a perfect outcome is judged to be good enough. There’s a well-known saying ‘don’t let perfect be the enemy of good’ and it’s so true.
TIP: Sometimes it’s helpful to aim for ‘good enough’ because, in most situations, it generally is.

DROWNING IN OPINION

We live in a very noisy and sometimes overstimulating world. Everyone has opinions, and we’re constantly bombarded with advice on social media, or from well-meaning friends. The problem is that we can forget to just check in with ourselves and trust our own instincts.
We get de-sensitised to the signals from our own minds and bodies.

TIP: Try and listen to what your body and mind are telling you first and foremost.

OVERTHINKING THE LITTLE THINGS

When people bump into us in life, either literally or figuratively, we tend to assume they’ve done it in order to deliberately annoy us, or because they’ve been rude or malicious in some way. The truth is, most of the time people are just too busy thinking about their own problems and lives.
TIP: We accidentally get in each others’ way sometimes, so try not to assume the worst in others.

MULTI-TASKING

Because everyone feels under such time pressure, there can be a tendency to want to multi-task, but then we end up spinning way too many plates and don’t actually cope with any one thing very effectively.
TIP: It’s best to deal with one thing at a time, give it your full attention, and tick it off before then moving on.

BEING TOO BUSY

Life is so busy now and on a daily basis, we’re confronted with many little irritations. Lots of little things pile up on top of one another until eventually, we just kick off in response to the slightest thing. Sometimes we become aware of little health-related niggles or stresses and strains but ignore them because we’re too busy. A blister, for example, is very painful and can stop you in your tracks but if you pop a plaster on it you stop it developing into a much bigger issue.
TIP: We need to remember to deal with things as we go along and not let them build up to unbearable levels.

WASTING ENERGY ON THE WRONG PEOPLE

With so many people in our lives to deal with and competing demands upon us, we can end up channelling our effort and energy into the wrong places and sometimes on the wrong people. Trying to please a toxic boss, for example, can make you ill, wasting your time on friends who don’t really have your back can leave you drained while some people are ‘energy vampires’ who just leave you feeling depleted.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to occasionally ‘say no’. Invest your time and energy into relationships that are profitable for you, too.

BEING HARD ON OURSELVES

From a young age, we’re taught to be the best we can be and achieve more and more, but this can lead us to drive ourselves too hard. What we forget is that it is just as important to learn to forgive ourselves and that we all find things tough going sometimes. None of us needs an inner critic, general society will point out our flaws more than readily enough for anyone.
TIP: Learn the art of being compassionate towards yourself, and be your own best friend. Take care of yourself learn to let everything else go because most likely, the rest doesn’t matter anyway.

Need to reduce your stress levels? You might like to read the following:

5 ways to press pause (even if you think you’re too busy) 

6 simple ways to worry less

Review: The Stress Solution by Dr Rangan Chatterjee

6 ways to make your first ski holiday less stressful 

Wellness

Need some peace? Forest bathing could be the answer

Forest Bathing: 7 reasons to give it a try
Credit: David Mark

Are you familiar with forest bathing?

This wellness trend hit the headlines again over the weekend when it emerged the Duchess of Cambridge had helped co-design a ‘Back to Nature’ themed garden for the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The ecotherapy, which originates from Japan where it is known as ‘shinrin-yoku’, involves immersing yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of a forest environment to help you reconnect with nature and slow down.

A couple of months ago I was introduced to the concept when a lively neighbour knocked on my door. She heads to the forest that’s right on our doorstep every morning come rain or shine, so when she invited me to join her on her early (I mean 6.30am early) jaunt I couldn’t possibly refuse.

I never imagined then that my maiden trip through the trees and foliage would end up becoming an integral part of my week but, quite frankly, it’s addictive and never fails to leave me feeling invigorated, joyous of mood and raring to start the day.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Forest Bathing: 7 reasons to give it a try

Spending time in nature has been linked to reduced stress levels and this 2017 study found that forest bathing helped lower blood pressure, decrease pulse rates, and reduce tension, anger and anxiety.

The RSPB even runs a dedicated two-hour forest bathing session at Lake Vyrnwy Nature Reserve in Wales, which is run by an experienced practitioner to help you relax and become mindful as you connect with the natural world.

As I’m consciously trying to start the day in a less stressed state – rather than waking up, wolfing down breakfast and immediately checking emails – forest bathing has become an integral part of my routine.

Below is why I enjoy it so much.

Forest bathing: 7 reasons to give it a try

SPECTACULAR SIGHTS
You never know what you’re going to encounter. On our first trip, a beautiful baby deer emerged through the azalea and ferns. We’ve seen swans and their cygnets – there are two large lakes – nesting coots and very tame squirrels. I’m just waiting for an Adder to slither out from the undergrowth. It hasn’t happened. Yet.

ULTIMATE RELAXATION
Connecting with nature is enormously grounding and can calm a racing mind. TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham recently revealed how he enjoys sitting under an ancient oak tree. “When you sit next to an organism that’s 650 years old it puts you in your place,” he said.  I agree, entirely. You can read our interview with him here.

SOCIAL AFFAIR
There aren’t many people around at the crack of dawn but you do stumble across the odd dog walker, golfer, and runner.  Everyone is so friendly and even the ducks seem to quack ‘good morning’ at you. People make time for conversation and aren’t distracted. It’s a refreshing contrast to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

IMPROVED SLEEP
Exposing yourself to sunlight first thing in the morning is a great way of resetting your internal body clock, known as the circadian rhythm. I’m definitely sleeping better since I’ve started the walks. It dawned on me recently that I spend far less time outdoors since developing this chronic illness – prior to becoming unwell I spent most of my spare time bashing balls about on a tennis court or running – but that’s no longer the case as strenuous activity can set off my reactions.  However, walking is the one thing I can do (touch wood) and an early morning stroll is a great way to build up my steps, which are horrendously low when I’ve been tapping away at my keyboard all day.

SENSORY DELIGHT
Every sense is awakened thanks to the smell of the pine trees, the fresh air, and the chirping birds and if the sun’s out your body can make that mood-boosting Vitamin D. It’s certainly a feel-good experience.

CREATIVITY BOOSTER
I have my best ideas mid-walk. Forest bathing also helps me enjoy the moment and clear my head of worries. It’s an easy way to practise mindfulness, which is wonderful for reducing stress levels.

IT’S FREE
Enough said.

Have you ever tried forest bathing? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

 

 

In the news, Wellness

5 ways to press pause (even if you think you’re TOO busy)

Press Pause / Relax Ya Self To health

Are you any good at pressing pause?

I’ll admit it’s something I still struggle with.

I’ve always been a doer who likes to account for every spare minute. I love lists, ticking things off and feeling accomplished. And my brain is always fizzing with ideas which makes it damned hard to switch off.

Up until 3.5 years ago, I was hitting the gym three nights a week, blasting balls on a tennis court at the weekends, and travelling the world for both work and pleasure.

I thought I was living my best life, wrongly associated downtime with laziness and barely stood still.

Then overnight my health fell apart. Just like that.  They say life begins at 40 but just three weeks after the big event (I celebrated with an 80s fancy dress party, of course) I was lying in a resuscitation ward connected to tubes and monitors and it wasn’t because I’d necked too many rum and cokes.

It’s been a long old road – you can read about the night it all began here – but it seems my mast cells, allergy cells responsible for immediate allergic reactions, are up the spout. The disease is a complex one.

“Machines run well at constant speed. People don’t.”

Every day is a challenge. Perfume, chemicals, fragrances, heat, sunlight and intense exercise can all trigger my tongue swelling reactions and along with multiple foods – it’s impossible to eat out – and I’d be lying if I said this pesky illness didn’t get me down. But for the best part, I handle it by refusing to dwell on the negatives.

How?

By practising mindfulness and embracing the now (instead of getting lost in fears that my health will continue to deteriorate), by expressing gratitude for every little thing, and focussing on what this experience has taught me rather than what I’ve lost.**

Along the way, I’ve met some truly incredible new people, rediscovered my creativity via this blog and learned a heck of a lot about myself –  this illness has been the most mahoosive teacher.

Slowly but surely I’m shedding layers of the old me, the patterns and conditioning that kept me rooted in the past and no longer serve and opening up to the new infinite possibility.

Yes, the healing path is potholed at times but it’s fascinating, too, as there are so many elements to explore. I truly feel as though my soul is awakening and the light within is beginning to glow.

But hear this. My body had to quite literally pack up to make me slow down and take heed.

How long had it been screaming at me to listen?

Perhaps it had been whispering to me for years but I was too busy living life in the fast lane to pay it any attention.

Do Pause: You are not a to do list

This is precisely why Robert Poynton, an associate fellow of the Saïd Business School at Oxford University and author of Do Pause: You Are Not A To Do List, encourages people to “make pause a thing.”

“Machines run well at constant speed: people don’t,” he tells Relax Ya Self To Health. “If you don’t learn to pause life may force you to – often abruptly or violently.”

Robert, who lives in an off-grid, solar-powered house outside the small Spanish town of Arenas de San Pedro, explains that coping mechanisms often take the form of meditation apps, weekend breaks and annual holidays, but things soon revert. This is why we need a more sustainable approach  – an ability to press pause.

“Instead of aspiring to be ‘always on’, make pause a ‘thing’ for yourself,” he says. “Sending a signal to yourself that pauses matter shifts your attention and your behaviour. You start to notice how, where and when you pause (or don’t) and where you could play around with pauses of different kinds, short or long, to suit your own circumstances.”

Below, Robert shares his top tips on how to help you slow down, even if you think you’re too busy.

 

HOW TO PRESS PAUSE GUIDE

USE THE SPACES IN BETWEEN
Instead of seeing them as a waste of time reframe them as pauses. See the commute, or the wait for a coffee as something in its own right, not as a frustrating delay. Don’t fill the time with distractions such as music, games, and social media but allow yourself to sink into an empty moment and notice what is going on around you or within you. Be like an artist, and work with the ‘negative space’ between the ‘objects’ of your life.

SET TRIP WIRES AND SPEED BUMPS
In a Zen monastery, there is a wooden bar across the door into the meditation hall. It is there to make you pause. You can do something similar. Count to ten (or one!) before you enter a room or pick up the phone. Spend thirty seconds on the threshold when you get home before you enter. Create habits and routines that are triggered by moments that crop up regularly and you will start to weave pauses into your life.

HAND OVER MIND
Let the hand dominate the mind. Set aside a little time (every day, or week) to write or draw. Don’t aim at anything, just see what comes. Write automatically, draw whatever is in front of you, or doodle. It is about the process, not the result so you could use your ‘other’ hand or throw away the paper once you are done. Give yourself a chunk of time where your hand is leading your mind, without trying to get anything done.

USE YOUR BODY
Change your body and you change your mind – they aren’t separate. So a walk – short or long – will change what you see and how you feel. Pay attention to how your feet meet the ground, how your body moves. Notice where your mind wanders to.

CELEBRATE AN OFFICIAL BIRTHDAY
A pause isn’t just a moment. It could be a ‘Screen Free Saturday’, a ‘Think Week’ or a sabbatical year. Why not take an annual pause on your birthday. Take the day off, or use it to review the past year or the year to come. If it feels too much like work on your actual birthday, how about giving yourself an official birthday, like the Queen? A single day, once a year, where you allow yourself to disconnect from everything you normally do and see what comes up.

Do Pause: You are not a to do list by Robert Poynton is published by the Do Book Co.

 

If you enjoyed this post you might like to read the following:

The CBT Journal: How to stop feeling stuck

The surprising thing I discovered when I tried flotation therapy 

Always busy? Five important signs you need to slow down

Review: What really happens in a group meditation class

If you’d like to subscribe to Relax Ya Self To Health’s newsletter (it’s free) you can do so here.
Or alternatively, please feel free to give us a like or follow on Facebook or Instagram.

Thank you, as always, for your support.

x

**This is a personal self-care and wellbeing blog. The methods that work for me might not work for you. If you are prone to depression or struggle with your mental health please do seek professional medical advice. Helpful links can be found at the bottom of this post here.

 

Helen's Health, Wellness

REVIEW: The Stress Solution by Dr Rangan Chatterjee

The Stress Solution

When I bought Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s The 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life last year, I never envisaged I’d be interviewing him six months later but that’s exactly what happened when I wrote an article for The Sun back in January on ways to embrace doing nothing.

The idea for the piece was sparked by my inability to switch off, which was reconfirmed just a tad as I devoured the chapter on how to relax. Soaking up every single word, it became glaringly obvious that I was still spinning far too many plates and placing enormous pressure on myself alongside trying to manage a nasty chronic illness, which has left doctors bewildered for more than three years (I have suspected MCAS).

Unsurprisingly, if you’re a ‘doer’ by nature it’s very easy to take on too much and feel as though you’re being pulled in all directions – certainly, being kept up at night with anxiety is something I’m familiar although I think the weird chemical reactions going on in my body may have something to do with this too.

So when I caught up with Dr Chatterjee, star of BBC One Series Doctor in the House, I was over the moon to discover that he’d just published a new tome devoted entirely to stress.

The Stress Solution, Dr Rangan Chatterjee

The Stress Solution: The 4 Steps to Reset Your Body, Mind, Relationships and Purposefollows the same format as The 4 Pillar Plan and is divided into four sections: purpose, relationships, body and mind.

Dr Chatterjee advises readers to pick one or two of the easier self-help interventions from each segment, before building up. “It’s not about perfection in one particular pillar – you are aiming for balance across all four,” he writes.

As Dr C points out, stress can have devastating long-term consequences for health with too much of it contributing to the development of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, strokes and Alzheimer’s and playing a part in insomnia, burn-out and depression.

“We are living in the middle of a health epidemic,” he says. “In fact, the World Health Organisation calls stress ‘the health epidemic of the twenty-first century’”.

I was sent the book as part of the day job but quickly realised its content would help many of my readers. This is how I got on…

REVIEW: THE STRESS SOLUTION

Dr Chatterjee writes in an easy-to-understand, engaging style – no complex medical jargon here – and, refreshingly, his books are peppered with personal and patient anecdotes which makes the contents entirely relatable. Unsurprisingly, I flew through this book. Every page is brimming with words of wisdom.

The Stress Solution, Dr Rangan Chatterjee

Credit: Susan Bell

THE POWER TO GENERATE STRESS

Dr Chatterjee introduces us to his ‘Cupboard of No Return’. It’s essentially a kitchen wall mounted cupboard crammed with the ‘shrapnel’ of everyday life, from a golf ball and stacks of unopened envelopes to a broken screwdriver and a child’s glove. “The chaos in the cupboard is the cumulative result of dozens of isolated stressful moments in the daily life of me and my young family – from when my daughter lost her glove, to when a picture fell down and I was too busy to put the hammer back in the shed,” he reveals.

Dr Chatterjee describes the cupboard as a problem not only because it’s the result of stress but also because it has the power to generate moments of anxiety and frustration for instance, if his family want to play a board game and they can’t find the pieces or he’s rushing to get out the house and his daughter only has one glove. He later explains that the cupboard has become a headache because he’s left it so long it’s now overwhelming. “The only way I’m going to deal with it is by not viewing it as one huge job to tackle but realising I can break it down into a series of tiny actions…The stress in your life is no different to this.”

THE POWER OF YOUR EMOTIONAL BRAIN

Dr C explains that when we’re stressed our logical brain steps aside and the emotional brain takes centre stage, which is the correct response when we’re in dangerous territory. The problem is the more frequently you feel stressed, the more powerful your emotional brain will become, while your rational brain will be deskilled.

“If your emotional brain has grown too powerful, you’ll start to sense danger even when there’s no danger present. The smell of a summer barbecue is misinterpreted as a house fire. A rushed email from your boss is interpreted as a prelude to sacking. An innocent glance from a friend seems sarcastic and hostile, full of hidden meaning.”

HOW TO REFRAME YOUR LIFE

Dr Chatterjee urges us to examine how we choose to interpret a stressful event and, instead of being negative or operating from a ‘victim mentality’ to reframe our outlook to a positive one, which is important if we’re in the middle of a micro stress dose swarm and our emotional brain is dominant.

“Without a proper, practised strategy, you’re likely to spiral quickly into a whirlpool of irrational negativity. If you don’t actively try to reframe the experience, you’ll often find that your stress levels increase during the day as your emotional brain continues ruminating on what’s happened to you and keeps finding ‘evidence’ that your life is a mess.”

Ruminating, he adds, is when we tend to dwell on situations that we find distressing or upsetting, or when we replay a problem over and over again in our mind. “You will be training your emotional brain to become more powerful, which in turn makes it more likely that you will spend time ruminating in the future, and so more likely that you will become anxious.”

Dr Chatterjee has three tips for effective reframing which are:

  • Writing down the experience to adopt a more rational and distant viewpoint
  • Focussing on the cause so, if someone cuts you up while driving, think about why they might have done it instead of the effect on you. For instance, their mother might be unwell or they may have had a row with their partner
  • Replaying the event as though you’re an observer or, say, a sports commentator. This forces you to take a broader, less me-focused view and helps prevent you from catastrophising.

VERDICT: The Stress Solution
Up until my health fell apart I’d always been a glass half full kind of character but now, especially when I’m mid-flare – which has been a weekly three-day occurrence of late – I sometimes struggle to think positively and I’d be lying if I said I never worry about how the future will unfold, despite trying to be mindful. However, since reading this book I’ve started to look differently at my health and break things down into smaller, manageable chunks, focussing on what I can control instead of what I can’t.

We’re only human. We all have stress. And sometimes, it can be hard to distinguish when it’s building up to unhealthy levels. We keep going and going and then something breaks. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, need to put steps in place to manage stress, or are simply wondering how to find balance in life, The Stress Solution is your bible. My only wish is that it had been written five years ago as I believe my go-go-go lifestyle was, ultimately, the undoing of my physical body!

The Stress Solution (Penguin Life, £16.99) is out now. Dr Rangan Chatterjee is host of the iTunes #1 podcast ‘Feel Better Live More’. 

If you enjoyed this post you might like the following:

Review: The CBT Journal (how to avoid feeling stuck)

Always busy? 5 important signs you need to slow down

The Surprising thing I discovered when I tried flotation therapy 

Can mindfulness save your relationship? 

 

Wellness

Always busy? 5 important signs you need to slow down

Always busy? 5 signs you need to slow down

On a scale of one to ten how busy would you say you are? Up until last week, I reckon I ranked at 20. As peculiar as it sounds, I’ve always been secretly proud of the fact that I am a ‘doer’ with a million and one things on the go.

But while being busy has its advantages in terms of being productive and staying motivated, it can become problematic if we never switch off and – in the worst case scenario – lead to burnout.

“While some pressure can be good, it’s less so if you’ve no time or thinking space to develop, be creative or just feel like you’re on top of things,” Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services at private health insurance provider AXA PPP Healthcare explains. “It’s one thing to be firing on all cylinders but quite another to be constantly firefighting – ask yourself which camp you fall into.”

Last year a poll of 2,000 people found that Brits feel stressed for an average of nine days a month. The research, conducted by healthcare tech startup Forth, ranked money as a top concern. Meanwhile, an HSE report published last October found that 15.4 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18.

“When we’re stressed our sympathetic nervous system is activated,” Dr Winwood explains.“That’s our fight or flight response which is a normal part of our physiology but now we are micro-dosing ourselves with sympathetic nervous system alerts all day. The alarm clock rings so we’re jolted awake. We put it on snooze and the same thing happens again. We look at the emails that come in overnight and think oh my God I’ve forgotten to do that…another dose of stress. We might be rushing to get the kids ready for school, find ourselves stuck in a traffic jam or the lift might be full when we get to work and we have to wait.”

So how do we counteract this culture of busyness and help calm down our central nervous system, the ‘hard-wiring’ in our body responsible for how we respond to stress?

The first step is to become aware of our habits and actions. If you’re too busy to enjoy life, unsure how to cope with the demands of your busy schedule or can’t remember the last time you were happy, now might be the time to sit up and take note.

“We’re never going to not have stress and our body is built to manage it,” Dr Winwood adds. “Let’s not be fearful of stress but proactive in managing it every single day by putting in the downtime needed to engage our parasympathetic nervous system.”

If you suspect you have too much on your plate or think it might be adversely affecting your health, relationships and mood, check out Dr Winwood’s advice below on the important signs to watch out for.

He also shares some practical advice on how to build relaxation and calm moments into busy schedules.

Too busy? 5 important signs you need to slow down.

SNAPPING AT PEOPLE

It might be in your nature to snap at people. If it isn’t, this could be a sign. It’s really important to think about the changes you have recognised in yourself but also the changes other people might have mentioned they’ve noticed in you. We get a lot of information and feedback from others.

AVOIDING YOUR FRIENDS/FAMILY

You stop making plans to see people, make plans and then cancel or avoid places that you have the opportunity to sometimes unwind in.

PROCRASTINATION

Sometimes we fill our day full of distraction when we’re unable to focus. This is because our brain is avoiding something we’re fearing. It might be fear of failure or the fear of not being able to do something to our perfect levels if we’re perfectionists. It might be fear of losing our status or it could be to do with things that we’re stressed about.

FEELING DESPONDENT AT WORK

You might become very unproductive even though you’re spending longer at your desk. Work may no longer be interesting to you, or perhaps you’re resentful of the amount of work you’ve got. Ask the questions, ‘how have I changed or what’s different for me?’ which might tell you why you’re struggling.

NOTICING CHANGES IN SLEEPING, EATING OR EXERCISE PATTERNS

Perhaps you were once thoughtful about what you put in your mouth but now you don’t really care. You’re out of control and eating lots more junk, fast or sugary food. When you’re stressed you have a whole physiological response to stress which means your hormonal production changes and you start to have inflammation in the body. You might begin to crave fatty or sugary foods, or you might notice that actually you’re avoiding or not making time to go to the gym, not walking anywhere or becoming more sedentary or reclusive.

BREAKING BUSY: 7 STEPS TO HELP YOU SLOW DOWN

I’m a big believer in spending a little bit of time on our mental wellbeing. It’s important to turn off the busyness of the day. Often you can rush around like a maniac, flop into bed and expect to go straight to sleep but it’s not going to happen. I’m not suggesting you sit on the floor and meditate for four hours but you could try the following:

  • Build mindful moments into your day. Have an 11am coffee break with a friend or talk to someone face-to-face, not online. Tell them how you feel. Seeing friends that make you feel good and supported will help bring a bit of relief and a realisation that you’re not alone in your feelings.
  • When you get home take the dog for an extended walk or get off the bus one stop earlier.
  • Box breathing really calms our reactions and the production of stress hormones. Try breathing in for five seconds, hold for five, breathe out for five and hold for five or alternate this so that you’re out-breath is longer than your in-breath, which will engage your parasympathetic nervous system.
  • Try a two-minute mindful shower where you really notice the water and the way it feels.
  • Put your phone away during dinner and talk with your family
  • Have a golden hour before going to bed, a wind-down routine or ‘reverse lie-in’. Dim all the lights in your house. Turn your work emails off. If you can’t, at least download filters to counteract the blue light. Reading or watch something relaxing or listen to music.
  • Know that it’s okay to spend time ‘being’ instead of ‘doing’.Your central nervous system will thank you for it.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to read:

Review: The CBT Journal (how to avoid feeling stuck)
The Surprising thing I discovered when I tried flotation therapy 
Can mindfulness save your relationship? 
Chilston Park Hotel Wellness Retreat
What really happens in a group meditation class

Wellness

REVIEW: The CBT Journal (how to stop feeling stuck)

The CBT Journal

Are you feeling stuck and procrastinating for England? Have you experienced  a seemingly never-ending run of bad luck and are now simply waiting for the next ‘bad thing’ to happen.  Do you just wish you could feel a little more ‘together’ in your life?

If the answer’s yes to any of the above, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT for short, may help.

The psychotherapy is commonly used to treat anxiety, phobias and depression but it can also assist those struggling with low self-esteem and anyone looking to improve their lives in general. CBT shines a light on the way you naturally think, feel and respond to certain situations by breaking down problems into smaller parts. In so doing unhelpful thinking patterns – like being overly self-critical –  are unearthed enabling you to develop ways to ‘unlearn’ this behaviour and pave a path to a happier and more fulfilled life.

“We often seek out ‘quick fixes’ when looking to improve things for ourselves but the crucial first step is looking inwards and exploring our internal environment,” explains Sarah D Rees, a CBT therapist and former mental health nurse who has worked in the field for more than 20 years.

Sara Rees, The CBT Journal

“If we’re constantly self-critical, we’ll build our internal critic up like a muscle and become very good at it. Self-criticism underpins a lot of psychological distress, illustrating how patterns of thinking can become problematic if left unchecked. The very act of having a thought or doing an action over and over again increases its power. Over time, it becomes automatic; a part of us. We literally become what we think.”

Now Sarah has created The CBT Journal, a self-help tool combining the elements of CBT with journalling, an activity which she claims has been linked to not only lowering depression and anxiety but strengthening immune cells called T-lymphocytes.

Designed to be used over a four-week period, the journal enables people to create awareness around how they think, feel and behave in order to understand their mind. “Through putting pen to paper we can begin to understand thought processes and patterns, making steps to change negative thoughts and feelings in order to cultivate the best version of ourselves,” says Sarah.

Sounds good to me!

I decided to give The CBT Journal a go: here’s how I got on.

REVIEW: THE CBT JOURNAL

I’ve tried to get my head around CBT books in the past and, in all honesty, I’ve given up due to the dry content but this journal was refreshingly free of jargon and written in such a friendly tone it almost felt as though Sarah was in the room guiding me through.

Although it is 43 pages long – I’d suggest settling down with a cuppa or two and allocating time at the weekend when you won’t be interrupted – it was by no means a chore to read. I particularly enjoyed learning about how the brain works – the part on neuroplasticity was fascinating – and the fact the journal was peppered with uplifting inspirational quotes.

The first section guides you through the basic concepts of CBT, the psychology of the mind, and covers aspects such as how to create a habit. There are also pages on thoughts, emotions, behaviour and gratitude and nuggets of helpful advice reminding you to be kind to yourself.

After filling in the daily diary pages (you’ll need to download these  so ensure you have enough paper and ink), I  discovered that I’m hugely self-critical. I knew I could give myself a hard time but was left aghast at how often phrases such as “you’re so stupid”, “you’re such an idiot”, and “you’re just a failure” seemed to tumble out of my mouth.

I quickly realised that when my body was in the middle of a tongue swelling episode  or recovering from a flare-up, I became unbelievably negative to the point that it affected every aspect of my life.  I’d be left feeling low and would chastise myself for being useless and weak.

Yet, on a reaction-free day, I’d be my usual, upbeat and bubbly self!

The next step involved learning how to change or modify some of my thoughts, feelings and behaviours by writing down the negative thought, the evidence for and against it before arriving at a more balanced one.

This exercise was fantastic because, on the whole, it really demonstrated how little evidence there was to support the negative thought!

Furthermore, after ‘”taking the thought to court” possible solutions began appearing before my very eyes and I was able to visualise a way around obstacles that once stood in my path. The upshot was I ended up feeling more in control – almost as though a weight had been lifted.

THE CBT JOURNAL: VERDICT

I often write down my worries when I’m feeling overwhelmed or anxious but the CBT element proved to be a real eye-opener. I’ve been on this planet 43 years and can honestly say this is the closest I’ve ever come to getting to know myself and understanding my thinking patterns.  If you’re feeling stuck, lost or stressed out and unable to see the wood for the trees right now this journal might just be the perfect “helping hand” to help you get back on track.

For more information visit Sarah’s website here.

*Relax Ya Self To Health was invited to try out The CBT journal in  exchange for a review. As always, this post is based on my honest opinion and I would never recommend anything I do not believe in. Please note I am not a medical expert. This review is based on my own personal experience. If you have a medical condition, psychological or health concerns always seek medical advice from your doctor or registered healthcare specialist before undergoing any new treatments or techniques. 

If you enjoyed this post you might like to read:

The Surprising thing I discovered when I tried flotation therapy 
Chilston Park Hotel Wellness Retreat
What really happens in a group meditation class

 

 

Helen's Health, Wellness

How to meditate like Prince Harry: 5 mindfulness myths busted

Mindfulness myths busted

Mindfulness has long been popular with A-list celebrities. Katy Perry and Jennifer Aniston are said to be fans and this week it was reported that Prince Harry is practising it daily in preparation for parenthood.

But what the heck is it?

Put simply, it’s like a form of brain training where you give yourself the time and space to notice your thoughts and feelings without judgement. In so doing you become more focused on the present moment instead of getting lost in worries about the future or dwelling on events that have happened in the past.

As well as better focus and clarity of thought, meditation has been linked to reduced stress levels and improved mood and sleep patterns. What’s more, many schools are now training teachers in mindfulness techniques and passing on the methods to pupils to help them build resilience and equip them with skills to cope with exam stress and other triggers that may cause anxiety.

Never in a million years did I think that I could learn to meditate – especially as I have the attention span of a gnat – but I stumbled upon it quite by accident when my physical health unexpectedly fell apart . I’d become very fearful of the future and my thoughts were spiralling out of control.

Then I discovered the Headspace meditation app. I started practising in the bath for ten minutes every other night. Those sacred minutes took me to such a glorious, serene place, I started listening to sessions back-to-back because I didn’t want in that feeling to stop!  Since then I’ve tried a group meditation class, a hypnotherapy mind massage and have even been on a meditation retreat!

Of course, I’m still no expert but that’s the thing. It doesn’t matter. There’s no competition involved because when you meditate you’re showing up and that’s just fine. There’s no judgement.

“When the mind is very busy we feel out of control, especially when we go into overwhelm and we’re just reacting to things and fighting fires,” Jennie Lichfield, mindfulness teacher and founder Bodhi Training, tells Relax Ya Self To Health.

“By slowing things down, we can be in a better position to see everything that’s going on and give ourselves the opportunity to decide or recognise the attributes in our life that are perhaps not helping us.”

Jenni suggests identifying ‘no extra time’ moments your day. “This way being mindful won’t feel like a chore and will become a habit you’ll create and keep,” she explains. “Try watching the steam rise as the kettle boils, or turning the radio off when you’re driving. This will give you the space to sit with your thoughts and bring awareness to how you are feeling.”

Still unconvinced or think you do not have the time?

Read on…

5 MINDFULNESS MYTHS BUSTED

I DON’T HAVE A SPECIAL PLACE TO MEDITATE

Try plugging in your headphones, downloading a meditation app and zoning in – or rather out – during your commute, or in your lounge, or garden (in the summer). It’s that easy.

MINDFULNESS IS TOO HARD

I used to think this, too, but if I can do it so can you! Head out for a morning walk and notice the sights and sounds around you. The crunch of gravel underfoot, the sound of chirping birds, the clouds of warm breathe lingering in the icy-cold air. Being aware of the present moment is being mindful.

I’LL NEVER EMPTY MY MIND OF THOUGHTS

We all have thoughts…this is natural, so don’t fret. As soon as you notice your mind dilly-dallying bring your awareness back to your breath. Sarupa Shah, a business coach at The Soul Agency suggests candle gazing. Place a *candle on your table at a safe distance. Look at the flame for a few seconds then close your eyes and hold the image for three minutes. If your mind starts to wander simply open your eyes and focus on the candle again. Then try again and eventually build up to ten minutes.
*Ensure the candle is on a heat resistant surface, in a stable holder and away from draughts.

I’M TOO BUSY

This was my excuse until I realised I could meditate in the bath! Another good tip is to check the screen time alert on your mobile device at the end of the day? If like me the number is creeping into the four-hour zone, it’s possibly a sure sign the endless email/social media/text checking or, in many cases, mindless scrolling needs to give.

I’LL NEVER BE ANY GOOD AT IT

Practice makes perfect. When I first started meditating I’d sometimes get frustrated. There’d be days where my mind would not switch off no matter how hard I tried. And then I’d be annoyed with myself for getting annoyed because you’re supposed to release all expectation and I couldn’t even do that. But then I likened it to a bad day on the tennis court…you’re never going to be on top form every day. And that’s okay!

Do you meditate? Or are you tempted to give it a go after reading this article? If you do I’d love to hear how you get on in the comments below. If you know someone who is feeling super stressed right now and could do with ten minutes of peace, please feel free to share or tag them in the post!

In the news, Wellness

8 ways to beat Christmas stress

Christmas stress

How are your Christmas stress levels right now? Are you panicking about presents, terrified about undercooking the turkey or worrying about impending visits from the relatives?

Well, you’re not alone.

According to a poll of 1,000 people, as many as 20% get stressed by family gatherings, 10% say they don’t enjoy them and almost one in five say they expect confrontations when everyone’s together.

The survey commissioned by probiotic brand Zenflore also found that money worries were the biggest concern for almost two-thirds of respondents, while 47% described buying gifts as stressful and 30% felt put upon by the extra cooking. But do not despair…our tips below will help you navigate the chaos, reduce your Christmas stress levels and emerge the other side feeling relaxed and refreshed.

ASK FOR HELP

If you’re hosting Christmas lunch don’t be afraid to ask for assistance especially if some of your guests are on restricted diets. I would never expect anyone to cater for me as I react to so many ingredients plus it’s far easier for me to prepare my own food. Mix things up. If you’re providing the starter and main, could your guests bring the Christmas Pudding or could you host Christmas Day and a family member take over the reins at their place on Boxing Day? This is what we do in our family. It stops everyone feeling overwhelmed and the change of scenery’s good, too.

FIND SOME ALONE TIME

This might sound counterintuitive if you’re crazily busy and darting about all over the place but this could be just the reboot you need to get a sense of perspective. Space allows clarity. A separate poll of 1,000 people by David Lloyd Clubs found that 69% want more time to themselves during December. Don’t feel obliged to attend every Christmas party going or worry about letting other people down. Just politely decline and give plenty of notice. If you don’t look after yourself you’ll be of no use to anyone.

 

Christmas stress

MAKE A REALISTIC LIST

Grab a good old fashioned notepad and pen and get scribbling. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed I make a to-do list and break things down into bite-sized chunks to gain a sense of control.  Ensure the list isn’t as long as your arm. You’re only human, you can’t do everything and if you’ve got lots of items still unticked you’ll end up feeling worse. Prioritise what’s most important and don’t sweat the small stuff. Ask yourself – will this really matter in two weeks’ time? Chances are, it won’t.

DON’T REACT

Disagreements and bickering are par for the course over Christmas. However, if you know you’re going to be spending time with someone who triggers you try not to react or rise to the bait. Take a deep breath, walk into another room and notice and deal with the feelings that arise there. Or, agree with what they’re saying (even if you don’t). I’ve tried this a couple of times in the past with people who’ve been trying to get a rise out of me and they’re flabbergasted when I calmly say ‘Yes, I understand what you’re saying’ or I simply agree. The conversation just stops. No drama. Try it, you’ll be amazed!

DON’T TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY

If you’re sensitive by nature it can be easy to take things the wrong way. However, if someone snaps at you there’s a chance it could be to do with their personal situation. Maybe they’ve been run ragged by the kids, perhaps they’re caring for an elderly relative or a sick friend, or they might be feeling the stresses and strains of Christmas, too.  One approach would be to ask them if they’re okay. You might be surprised by the response and they might even open up to you.

ASK GOOD QUESTIONS

What would you like for Christmas? Can you give me a list? Questions such as these can save hours of precious time. Also, if you need to set a present limit don’t be afraid to say so. A good friend or family member will understand.

Christmas Stress

GET UP AN HOUR EARLIER

And ease yourself into the day. Take time to enjoy your breakfast instead of wolfing it down (something I’m guilty of) and then get a head start on what you need to do. When you look at the clock you’ll be expecting it to be much later than it is and feel as though you’ve accomplished so many things ahead of the game which is a wonderful psychological boost.

SCHEDULE BREAKS

If you’re juggling a million and one tasks it can be very easy to just keep going without a break but this approach will just leave you feeling exhausted come the big day. Head outside, even if it’s only for a 15-minute amble. The blast of cold air will revive your senses and unscramble your brain. Or try mindfulness at home or in group meditation setting. ‘Blissmass’ classes are being run at David Lloyd Clubs throughout December. The 30-minute session encourages people to leave their Christmas stress at the door and focus on breathing and mindfulness techniques in a studio lit by Himalayan salt lamps.

Do you have any tried and tested tips for beating Christmas stress? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

PS) Have a wonderful Christmas and thank you for supporting Relax Ya Self To Health this year.
If you’d like to subscribe so you never miss a blog post you can do so for free here.
x

In the news, Wellness

REVIEW: The surprising thing I discovered when I tried flotation therapy

Flotation Tank Pod, Floatworks

Have you ever wondered why someone would willingly choose to spend an hour in a flotation tank? I certainly have. So when Chris Plowman, co-founder of Floatworks invited me to try a session, I curiously accepted his gesture. The plan had been to arrive at the Vauxhall-based premises in a relatively relaxed state with half an hour to spare.

But this is me and things are never straightforward.

There were both tube and train delays. And I’d left my London A-Z (yes, you know the old-school style book) at home and was reliant on Google Maps to get me to St George’s Wharf. Of course I ended up walking in completely the wrong direction and, of course, it started to rain. Flabbergasted and soaked through I called Floatworks. Fortunately, the receptionist explained that she received calls like this all the time (the clue is to look out for the Pret when you come out of the station).

Flotation therapy, also known as isolation therapy or R.E.S.T (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy) is having a moment again as people look for alternative and fun ways to de-stress. It dates back to the 1950s and was developed in the US by doctors Jay Shurley and John Lilly at the National Institute of Mental Health. They were interested in understanding how the human brain would respond to an environment devoid of external sensory input.

Put simply, you lie in a pool of salty water for an hour. Most people do it in the dark (I didn’t, but more on that later). According to Chris,  floating is popular with athletes who use it as an alternative sports recovery technique and city executives looking to relieve stress fast. Some women float during pregnancy to alleviate aches and pains, while wellbeing enthusiasts who understand the benefits of rest and deep relaxation are also drawn to these pods.

Flotation Tank Therapy: Helen Gilbert, Relax Ya Self To Health

Each flotation tank contains half a tonne of Epsom salts, which not only aids buoyancy but provides a hit of magnesium via the skin, which is said to be great for relaxing muscles and easing stiffness.

Interestingly, a study published in science journal PLOS One earlier this year described floating as a ‘promising technique for acutely reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression’.

Chris, who is one of the most chilled people I have ever met,  freely admits he became burnt out after spending eight years working as a banker. “I got into banking because I thought that money and power were the things that were going to make me happy and successful and then I quickly realised they wouldn’t,” he says. “I was trapped there for eight years because I didn’t know what else I wanted to do and burned the candle at both ends. My mental health was really bad because I was doing the things that I didn’t believe in and didn’t enjoy.”

He then discovered the benefits of floating after injuring his back at the gym. “I was trying to recover, it was difficult and my physio suggested I give it a try. I floated and it changed my life. I shut my eyes and a lot of my worries, stress and anxiety disappeared.”

Around the same time Chris had started meditating – something he had never before contemplated. “When you grow up you hear about those things and they seem fringe and hippy. I thought I won’t waste my time doing that but when you’ve felt shitty for so long, it’s like okay, maybe it’s time to try something different. After floating I had a good idea of what I needed to do. We [his best friend Ed is a co-founder] set up in April 2016. We want to have as many people floating as possible because we know the profound impact it can have on people’s lives, especially when stress, anxiety and depression are rising so rapidly. Floating is the perfect counterbalance.”

But would it work for me…someone with a butterfly brain who gets bored very easily? This is how I got on.

My Floatworks Flotation Tank Experience

I was led to a plush semi-lit private room complete with an enormous shower and pod. At 8ft 6in long by 5ft 6in inch wide, the white tank was far bigger in ‘real life’ than I had envisaged. I was advised to pop in the earplugs, given Vaseline to smooth over any cuts or scratches I may have (heavily concentrated salt water stings!) and told to shower before making my way into the flotation tank. I was then shown how to open the lid – it was reassuringly easy and swung up and down – which allayed my initial concerns around feeling claustrophobic. Also, if I had any issues I could press a button and someone would be with me in the blink of an eye.

To be on the safe side, I laid out my emergency meds including my epi-pens. As some of you know I have mast cell issues and hot water can be a trigger, however, at 35.5c the water was just below body temperature.*

Flotation Tank Therapy: Relax Ya Self To Health

I glided into the silky pool and giggled like a little girl when I popped up. Ambient music played in the background and I pulled down the lid. I could do this. Five minutes later the music stopped. It felt eerily quiet.

Thoughts consumed my mind and I could feel a slight twinge in my neck. I then realised I’d left the halo – a blue plastic support that goes beneath your head and neck – hanging on the wall.

I lifted up the hatch, stepped out to retrieve it but by my eyes were in agony from the salt water dripping down my face.  In my haste, I’d forgotten that there was a bottle of water inside the pod to assist with such emergencies. After five minutes or so they calmed down. Take two! As it was my first flotation experience I opted to leave the alternating rose and aquamarine lights switched on instead of lying in inky darkness.

My chattering mind was in overdrive trying to work out why I couldn’t really feel anything – the water is the same temperature as the air so everything seems to blend into one and it almost feels as though you’re suspended in nothingness. I focussed on deep breathing instead. The sensation that eventually followed was just wonderful. Cocooned within a wall of brilliant white light, I felt calm and at peace.

Flotation Tank, Floatworks, London

 

Now, I’ve written before about this peculiar altered state I seem to enter when I meditate – it can happen in just 45 seconds, and, truth be told, I sometimes stop when this occurs because I wonder where the heck it’s going to take me. I appreciate this sounds a little out there but it’s as though I’m disconnected from my body – stay with me – yet in a really deep state of relaxation.

And sure enough, it happened in the pod. Except I also had another profound experience – similar to when I tried tapping therapy, also known as EFT, for the first time. Imagine a candle flickering in your tummy or the excited feeling you’d have as a child the night Father Christmas was due to pay a visit. It was that.

When the music began playing to signal the end of the session I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe I’d spent almost an hour doing absolutely nothing but breathing and floating. I’d been in a dream-like, surreal state but not asleep. Afterwards, I headed upstairs to the Hollywood dressing room which had the works – hairdryers, hair straighteners, cotton buds – before retreating to the relaxation area complete with herbal tea and books.

My Floatworks Flotation Tank verdict

I know it sounds rather new-agey but I had such a profound experience in that pod. Every cell in my body seemed to be singing with joy and for the first time in the three years since my health fell apart, I felt completely and utterly safe. Whole, even. I walked out in such a blissful state. It was as though everything was stripped back and a metamorphosis had taken place. Chris says people often need three sessions to see if it’s for them. I know after just one that I’ll be back. And next time I’ll turn the light off!

Single floats start from £50 while a 3x float package costs £105.
DISCOUNT CODE: Relax Ya Self To Health readers can get 15% off their first single float by entering RELAXYASELF at the checkout.
Visit Floatworks.

Relax Ya Self To Health was invited to try a flotation experience in exchange for a review. As always, this post is based on my honest opinion and I would never recommend anything I do not believe in. Please note I am not a medical expert. This review is based on my own personal experience. If you have a medical condition or health concerns always seek medical advice from your doctor or registered healthcare specialist before undergoing new treatments. 

Looking for more ways to relax?

You might like to check out the following posts:

Chilston Park Hotel Wellness Retreat 
Gazelli House Hypnotherapy Mind Massage
What Really Happens in a Group Meditation Session

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Thanks for reading x

Helen's Health, Wellness