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Tackling Men’s Mental Health Using a Simple 5 Minute Brain Trick

Tackling Men’s Mental Health Using a Simple 5 Minute Brain Trick

2017-06-13 
| by Editor | Posted in Telford Wellbeing

Telford Daily PRSS welcomes back our wellbeing guest blogger, Katie Woodland, Managing Director of Telford-based Woodland Psychological Services


Today sees the launch of Men’s health week and while all aspects of men’s health is equally important I’m going to take this opportunity to hone in on male mental health.

You may not be aware that 76% of all suicides in the UK are committed by men and it’s the biggest cause of death for men under 35 (ONS 2016).

When you delve into the figures a little deeper it is clear to see that males between 45 & 59 are at the highest risk of suicide. It’s also important to note that there are occupational differences too – those working within ‘elementary occupations’ (performing simple and routine tasks using handheld tools and requiring physical effort (International Labour Organization, 2004)) have the highest risk of suicide (44%) (ONS, 2016).

This last point is particularly concerning as Telford is a particularly industrious town with 19.9% of jobs coming from the industrial estates throughout the town (Telford Development Strategy).

It is also important to understand that many men do not seek help for health complaints and emotional/mental ill health is no exception. Men particularly see counselling and therapy in a negative light and often only seek help when they are at the point of crisis (Samaritans, 2012). Statistically, only 36% of those seeking support from the National Health Service are male (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies, 2017)

As a mental health professional, this is particularly saddening as there is much that can be done via the therapeutic route and the earlier someone chooses to seek help, the quicker and more effective any treatment is.

However, as with all ill health, prevention is definitely better than cure and there is much people can do (both men and women) to increase emotional and mental resilience.

So, this is something I am going to help you with today.

One of the things which I find most successful with my male clients is visualisation techniques.

As yet, I do not know why but it is definitely something I am exploring.

While our brains are super powerful, they’re also a little primitive.

Your brain is unable to tell the difference between time (past, present or future) and unable to tell whether you are pretending to do something in your mind and actually physically doing it.

Using visualisation as a tool has proven successful in many different areas of life, one of which is increasing muscle mass without actually doing anything…

OK, so now you’re intrigued!

In 2001, Guang Yue reported that “you can increase muscle strength solely by sending a larger signal to motor neurons from the brain”. In his experiment, he had some participants actually lifting weights and others visualising that they were lifting the weights. Those who lifted weights saw their muscle mass increase by 30% and those who visualised saw their muscle mass increase by 13.5% (Cohen, P. 2001).

Now, I absolutely encourage anyone and everyone to have a go with a little mental exercise but I would also encourage you to do some real life exercise because of all the phenomenal benefits (e.g., increase serotonin production (happy hormone), increase oxygen levels in the blood, natural energy source…).

I just include this so you see how powerful visualisation can actually be.

Plus, it’s pretty effortless.

But, I’m sure you’ll agree lifting weights in your head is not going to increase your emotional/mental resilience.

What I find most often in therapy is that those who are struggling with emotional/mental ill health have been psychologically hurt in the past by someone or multiple someones!

Every time we experience a stressful situation the body produces cortisol (one of the stress hormones) and heightened levels of cortisol increases the risk for mental illness (e.g., depression, anxiety and PTSD) and physical illnesses (e.g., lower immune function, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer). Once released cortisol stays in the body for up to 6 hours.

Holding onto thoughts and the associated negative feelings about the past will continue to trigger the stress response throughout an individual’s life.  More importantly, this usually happens without people even realising.

Often, our subconscious is thinking about events from our past that we don’t even realise.

You may inadvertently be triggering your stress response right now while you’re reading this blog post…

If so, I apologise!

OK, so what can you do to stop this from happening?

Well, quite simply virtually forgive and let go.

Now, I want you to understand something – forgiving someone is not the same as condoning them for the pain they caused you. Forgiving someone simply enables you to acknowledge it’s happened and you are no longer going to allow that particular past event have a hold over you.

This visualisation is really simple, but super powerful and takes minutes.

Simply close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and then imagine the person who has caused you harm in front of you.

Bring fourth as much detail as you can about that person; their clothes, their hair, their smell…

Next, imagine there is a chord connecting you both.

This cord is full of black goo, slime, specks… whatever naturally comes to mind but anything dark and yucky.

Now, I want you to cut the cord.

Use whatever implement comes into your head.

Take a few more deep breaths and see all the ‘black yuck’ spilling out of the cord and out of your body.

When the ‘black yuck’ has finished spilling out I want you again to look at the person and say ‘I forgive you for ­­­______ [fill in the blank], but it and you are no longer going to cause me harm’ then watch them turn around and walk away.

Take a few more deep breaths, open your eyes and just notice how different you feel in that moment.

Do you feel free, relief, lighter, relaxed…?

Every time someone causes you to stress out, hurts you or causes you to feel less than you are, do this exercise, forgive them and just let it go.

You’ll notice that the more you do this your natural state will be much calmer and more relaxed plus you’ll slowly be building your resilience to being affected by others.

Remember, your brain cannot tell whether you’re really doing this or pretending to do so, therefore, visualising it happening has the same effect for you, as if you actually did this in real life.

This technique can be particularly helpful if you no longer see the person who caused you harm or if they’ve since passed away.

I hope this helps you as it has helped many of my clients over the past few years.

If you are really struggling and are ready to move forward then please feel free to get in touch on 01952 796 062 as we are able to start supporting people within 14 days of the initial free consultation.

Good luck and happy visualising!

Best wishes, Katie.

 

References:

Cohen, Philip. (2001) Mental gymnastics increase bicep strength. New Scientist. Retrieved 29/05/2017 from: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn1591-mental-gymnastics-increase-bicep-strength/

Telford Development Strategy: 1st Monitoring Rep.-7th Monitoring Rep. (T.D.C. 1978–84); (for no. of jobs on T.D.C. estates in 1978) T.D.C. Employment in Telford 1979 (1980), 20; no. of jobs on T.D.C. estates 1979–82 supplied or confirmed from T.D.C. bd. mtg. agenda 10 November 1983 (management accts. 1983-4, physical projections, p. 12).

Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies (2017). Psychological Therapies, Annual Report on the use of IAPT Services from 2012/2013. Retrieved 29/05/2017 from: http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB22110

International Labour Organization (2004). Elementary Occupations. Retrieved 27/05/2017 from: www.ilo.org/public/english/bureau/stat/isco/isco88/9.htm

Office of National Statistics (2016). Statistical bulletin: Suicides in the United Kingdom: 2014 registrations Retrieved 29/05/2017 from:

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2014registrations#main-points

Samaritans (2012). Research Report: Men and Suicide. Retrieved 29/05/2017 from: http://www.samaritans.org/about-us/our-research/research-report-men-suicide-and-society

 

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