Posted in Managing Mental Health, Mental Health

How to Support Someone With Mental Health Issues

It can be extremely hard to watch someone you love and care about going through a tough time regarding their mental health. It can also be painful if someone close to you discloses their mental illness or mental health struggles and you had no idea about it. You may feel like a failure yourself, like there’s nothing you can do, like you are useless. Essentially it may start to impact your mental health as well. That’s why the most important thing to remember when supporting someone with mental health issues is that you need to look after yourself as well. You have to.

1. Look after yourself

Sometimes we want to rush in and save the whole world – fix everything – but this simply isn’t possible. Perhaps at first it may seem like a good idea to try and take on the other person’s issues entirely as your own, without giving yourself the space needed to process your own emotions. In fact for a short while this may actually help the other person – but that’s not sustainable; long term it will lead to you burning out, struggling yourself or becoming resentful, likely making the entire situation worse. That’s why it’s so important to look after yourself, even if this is just journaling at the end of the day to help you sort out the feelings of the day, or doing a hobby once a week, the possibilities are limitless and you have to find what works for you. The important thing is that you do find it. And putting in boundaries with the person you are supporting can also help this, and most likely will help them in the long run too.

2. Listen to them

Many people with mental health issues, especially when they are first opening up about them, doubt themselves, feel ashamed or invalidated. By listening to them with an open mind you can help lessen these feelings. And by listening, I mean just that. Not everyone wants (nor even needs) advice or solutions all the time, sometimes they just need to be heard so they feel a little less alone. When having a conversation about their emotions/ experience it can be really helpful to ask the question ‘would you like me to offer advice or just listen to you?’. Validating their experience through listening to them can have a huge impact for someone struggling and give them confidence and reassurance. Remember that they are the one that lives in their brain, and they know what they are going through better than anyone else; it’s not your job to dictate to them what they are undergoing. However, linking to my last point, it is important that you don’t take on all of their feelings for yourself, so placing boundaries can be really helpful – for example requesting that before they talk to you, they ask you if you are in a place to have that conversation.

3. Involve them

Going through a tough time mentally can feel very isolating, and our brains can make us feel very lonely and rejected. That’s why it’s important to continue to involve someone who is struggling mentally. This could mean continuing to invite them to social events while making clear there is no pressure or expectations placed upon them to attend. If they accept and invitation, it might then mean making some accommodations for them, like helping them order food if that’s a point of anxiety for them or giving them some space if they need it for example. It might also mean offering to meet them one on one for a while if that’s easier for them, or talking with them about plans to keep them safe and checking in with them regularly. To relate to my last point, if you’re unsure of what to do, you can always ask them if they have any ideas or if there’s a way you can accommodate them better. This is a huge sign that you care for and accept them still.

4. Research their experience

If the person you are supporting has a diagnosis or has disclosed to you specific symptoms, it can be helpful for your own knowledge to research this. A quick google search will bring up symptoms lists and examples of how these might affect them, but I would also encourage you to look beyond this and read up on the personal experience of different people from different walks of life to get a clearer picture. This can help you understand the person you are supporting better without the worry that you are prying to much, and it can help them to feel seen as this informs how you support them.

5. Make them a happy kit

I’ve made a previous post on this, which you can read here. A happy kit is essentially a little collection of things that can help someone process their emotions, get through a crisis moment, or just generally cheer them up. It can include some things that they find calming or cheering, and maybe a list of distractions and mini coping exercises to try. Distractions are also a really great way to help someone with a mental health issue – it’s not a long term fix but it can help them escape their brain for a minute and feel more ready to face the day. If a distraction is creative it could also be a way of helping them to express themselves, and feel less alone if you’re doing it together.

6. Help with small tasks

Small tasks such as cleaning, ordering food, or remembering deadlines can become seemingly impossible for someone experiencing a mental health struggle. If you feel up to it you can offer to help them with these small tasks, even if that’s just by doing it with them (for example cleaning together one afternoon, or going food shopping together). As always, asking them how best to help is always a good idea, and if they’re not sure offering something specific – such as sending them a reminder text – might appeal to them.

7. Show them you care

It’s simple, but one of the most helpful and meaningful things anyone has ever done for me during my own struggles has been showing me they cared. This could mean writing someone a supportive letter, or making them a playlist. Just something simple that lets them know you care.

7. Be patient

We all have mental health and it can be a long term challenge to face for many. Someone in the midsts of a struggle isn’t going to overcome it overnight, but with amazing people like you willing to support them, they can find their way through. Keep in mind that you need to be patient – one of the reasons why looking after yourself is so important – and that their struggles are not a comment on you, ever. Eventually the sun will come shining through!

Posted in Happy Notes, Notes

Random Acts of Kindness

Kindness is something intangible, and yet it is very real and very powerful. In the Cambridge dictionary kindness is defined as ‘the quality of being generous, helpful, and caring about other people, or an act showing this quality’. If we think back on our lives I’m sure we can think on many moments where people have shown us kindness. Sometimes a seemingly small or insignificant act of kindness can have the greatest impact – for example someone helping someone else carry a bag on a particularly bad day could remind them that there is good in the world and prevent them from spiralling into a worse place mentally. And sometimes it’s the grand gestures of kindness over a long period of time that make an impact on us – for me the fact that my friends never gave up on me during the dark times is one the greatest acts of kindness that I have ever experienced. The point is, what we qualify as a kind act may be vary for each of us, but the underlying caring and generosity always helps to brighten up the world and our lives.

Back in November I posted on my Instagram about a 30 day random acts of kindness challenge. The idea behind it was to inspire myself and others to think about doing something small but kind once a day in order to be more mindful about how we can make a positive impact on the people and world around us. Why? I believe that when we put good energy out there, it spreads – a bit of a butterfly effect if you will – and it goes beyond the original act of kindness. Also, as someone who struggles with their mental health I know that being kind can have a profound effect on how I feel; it makes me feel better about myself and also helps to get me out of the cycle of my thoughts. But don’t forget you can also show yourself kindness, in many forms, and that is just as important. It helps us to be able to function better and feel better and do even more for others.

So here’s a list of 31 random acts of kindness. I would encourage you to try one out, or make it a challenge to do one a day for the next 31 days! Please comment below with any more ideas or stories of how someone else has helped you out:

  1. Tell someone you appreciate them
  2. Sign a petition for a cause you care about
  3. Say hello to someone and ask how they are
  4. Donate old clothes to a charity store
  5. Hold the door for someone
  6. Bake or cook something and give it to someone – a neighbour, family member, coworker
  7. Give three honest compliments
  8. Write a happy note and leave it for someone to find/ post it online (use #ourhappynotes)
  9. Comment something positive on a post
  10. Make/ hang some bird feeders
  11. Leave a thank you note for your mail carrier or another civil worker who does a lot for you
  12. Buy some food for a food bank
  13. Smile at someone
  14. When you’re going on an errand, ask a neighbour/ friend if they need you to do anything for them
  15. Share a post about an issue you care about
  16. Write some positive messages on the pavement with chalk
  17. Leave a bit of change in a vending machine
  18. Bring some food to a homeless person
  19. Wear your mask with vigilance if you can – this one should be some every day!
  20. Support a small local business, either with money or by leaving a positive review/ following them online
  21. Spend the day trying to be kind to yourself – listening to what you need, letting your emotions be, relaxing etc
  22. Do a chore that someone else would usually do
  23. Plant something
  24. Have a complaint free day
  25. Send a letter to an elderly person
  26. Read an article to educate yourself on an issue
  27. Encourage someone
  28. Check in on your friends
  29. Write to your MP/ representative about something you feel needs attention
  30. Let someone go ahead of you in line
  31. Brainstorm more ideas for kindness and how you can incorporate it into your everyday life

Let’s spread some sparkly, shiny, generous energy in the world! Sending all my love and support,

Millie xx

Posted in Advocacy, Happy Notes, Mental Health, Notes, Personal Growth

What is positivity?

This post is inspired by I note I made for my Instagram – @our.happy.notes – which read: ‘For me being positive doesn’t mean being happy or positive all the time, it means allowing myself to appreciate the moments that I do feel positive, and allowing the possibility of hope to exist’. I wrote it because being the inquisitive person I am and being active on social media brought the thought into my mind – what is positivity? What does positivity mean to me?

I’m a person that tends to find myself living in extremes. There either is or there isn’t. I am all or nothing. So with positivity and a mood disorder, I found that I either lived in a state of overwhelming optimist or complete lack of any positive thought at all. What I have found interesting, and beneficial to my mental health, is exploring the space in between. The idea that even in positive moments I can accept that it won’t last forever, and in the times where I lack such I can acknowledge that it doesn’t mean that positivity has disappeared.

I think sometimes even in well meaning spaces, there can be such a pressure to be positive and see the good in life. Unfortunately this simply isn’t possible all of the time, and when we put pressure on ourselves to feel one way or the other it can lead to us feeling even worse. The reality of the situation is that all emotions on the spectrum are valid. Yet the lack of positivity or hope in one moment does not mean it will never return; that it has ceased to exist. Nowadays this is something I like to remind myself – writing it out helps me to absorb it.

So, what is positivity to me? Positivity is not the blind belief in a bright future, but the acceptance of the fact that a bright future could exist. It is allowing the possibility of a good day for someone else happening, even if it isn’t for me. It is embracing the small, joyful things in life – the most minute parts of the world that make me a little less down, even if only for a moment. It is an intangible thing, an emotion, an idea – a beautiful prospect.

However I recognise that in moments we really can want to increase our positive thoughts and feelings in life. I am no expert on this, though I do have some tools that have helped me. In the morning I write down affirmations for the day – ‘Today can be a good day’, ‘I am enough’, etc. In the evening I write a gratitude list – ‘I have a roof over my head’, ‘someone smiled at me in the street’. I list the small things in life that bring me joy. I allow myself to dream wildly, but remind myself that whether or not these dreams materialise, I will be ok. I smile; sometimes I simply sit there and I smile. And when I feel that positivity is disappearing, that hope is waning, I repeat aloud and write on paper that they are not gone forever. These might seem a little silly, but they are some of the most healing things toward my mental health.

Sending love and support to anyone who needs it today!

Love, Millie x

Posted in Happy Notes

How to write your own Happy Note (and why you should)

Hello Happies! (Apparently that’s what we’re called now, just came up with it – if you have a better idea do share)

This is a basic guide on how – and why – to write your own Happy Note. There is no set formula, except that you must try to spread joy or motivate and encourage through your words, but it might be helpful to have some ideas. First though, here’s 10 reasons why you should write a Happy Note:

1. Your words could really brighten someone’s day. You never know what someone is going through, so a few kind words found from a stranger could really mean something to them.

2. Even if your note doesn’t have a profound impact on someone else, by consciously writing positive words you are training your brain to think positive thoughts; a happy mindset can change your life.

3. It’s super easy and takes less than 5 minutes, so why not?

4. It’s a great activity for kids to come up with something kind and have fun decorating their note, teaching them skills in creativity and kindness.

5. It helps you to feel good about yourself as you are deciding to do something for someone else and the world around you. This in turn encourages you to do more to aid the causes you are interested in.

6. It’s fun; you can be as artistic as you like because you are in control.

7. You can make a Happy Note wherever and whenever you like: on the go, while watching TV, during a break – it’s up to you!

8. A Happy Note allows you to feel connected to like minded people and be kind to someone else without having to deal with any social interaction, which can be really scary for some people.

9. It’s only a small step towards a happier life and a happier world, so you don’t need to be afraid to give it a go and it doesn’t require a lot of effort – go at your own pace in taking the step. You’re doing great just by reading this!

10. Happy Notes are symbolic in bringing about a more joyful world, and by creating one you are starting the process in making this dream a reality.

So, you’ve decided you want to write your own Happy Note? Great! But where to begin? As we’ve said already, there’s no set formula for your happy note, just so long as it’s full of joy, motivation and/or encouragement. Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide to creating your own Happy Note and some templates. Go spread that positivity!

1. Grab a pen and some paper. If you want you can also grab some other things to jazz up your note such as glitter, Pom Pom or coloured pencils.

2. Decide what you want your note to say. Remember to make it positive, motivational, joyful, encouraging or all four! It could be a quote or a family saying. Perhaps you’d like to tell your story to inspire someone else. Whatever it is, make it kind. (We’ve included some of our fave quotes at the end of this post)

3. If you want, add a little message on the back of your note to let the world know what it is so the movement can spread. You can use this template – or come up with your own:

‘Hi amazing person,

I am a happy note; my purpose is to spread joy, motivate and encourage others. I want the world to be a happy positive place so I’m part of a movement called Our Happy Notes. I hope you’re having a great day, but if not I hope I’ve helped to brighten it a little. Remember it’s ok not to be ok. There are people out there that care. If you want to find out more visit @our.happy.notes on Instagram or http://www.ourhappynote.wordpress.com

4. Choose where you’re going to leave your note – will it be on a train? In a book? On a shelf? Or under a coffee cup? Just make sure it’s somewhere that someone will find it, and it won’t get blown away by the wind.

5. So, you’ve written your first Happy Note, but what now? When the time feels right, write another and spread more joy. In the meantime look around you for the small things you can do to make a difference. Be kind to someone by holding open the door; smiling as you pass; helping carry a shopping bag. And don’t be disheartened if that kindness isn’t returned at first – it’s going to take time, but you are doing something great.

While you’re working towards all this joy for other people it’s possible you may have neglected someone very important: yourself. You can be kind to yourself, it’s not wrong – it’s necessary. When you smile the world smiles with you. It’s a slow process but it is possible (more on this soon).

If all this work for change has got you itching to do more, then we encourage you to find an issue you are passionate about and research so you can apply our principal that a small step can make a big difference to said issue. And while we’re on the topic of passion – if you can find something that sets your soul on fire then it’s going to revolutionise your world. Look into what you are curious about and try out something new. If doing something in person is difficult for you, the internet has a huge variety of courses for you to give a go. We promise it won’t be the end of the world if you try something and don’t like it, so you may as well.

‘You only fail when you stop trying’

‘Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light’ ~Albus Dumbledore

‘You are enough’

‘Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything it is’ ~Mandy Hale

‘You cannot find peace by avoiding life’ ~ Virginia Woolf

‘Only in the darkness can you see the stars’ ~ Martin Luther King

We hope you’ve enjoyed this short guide and now feel equipped to go forth and create your first Happy Note. You’re part of a movement now – a joyful movement.

If you make a note please do share it with us on Instagram @our.happy.notes or via email: our.happy.notes@gmail.com.

Keep Smiling. X