Four young people share their experiences reading Breathe Out, A Creative Guide To Happiness For Teen Minds, a book released in aid of Mind.
Sruthi, 19, completed the activity Flooding the Page. This activity is designed to help manage worries and reduce anxiety by writing out all your concerns on a piece of paper.
When I wrote my worries down I felt like I was cleaning out a drawer
I have obsessive thoughts stemming from worries that form repetitive thought loops. When I wrote my worries down, I felt like I was cleaning out a drawer. I was removing worries out of my head and on to paper, which made me feel a lot calmer and my head clearer. I could then distance myself from worries that had seemed really big in my head and stop obsessing about them. Writing worries down in more detail and confronting them head on made me realise that there were some specific things that caused them.
I also realised some of these worries were coming from insignificant places which made them easier to dismiss. Understanding my worries better in this way made me feel more positive and more in control. Before writing down my worries, I was very negative. This definitely made me less stressed. I can also use the comments again when I’m anxious about something similar. Condensing my worries down into single words made me feel that they were smaller and easier to tackle.
Overall, this activity was really useful. It made me feel calmer, more positive and more in control when I was worried. I’ll definitely do it again.
Inés, 19, completed the activity 7/11 Breathing. This activity takes the reader through guided breathing, and is designed to help your body relax when you’re feeling anxious.
Perpetually in an existential crisis or being found making increasingly niche Spotify playlists, I have had a long, drawn-out history of mental health problems. I’m now on the journey to self-acceptance, self-awareness and recovery, and I’m passionate about improving mental health in young people.
I chose the 7/11 breathing activity on a whim, hoping that it would ease some of the tightness in my chest. The 7/11 breathing technique is literally just that – you empty your lungs, then take a deep breath into your stomach while counting to seven, and then breathe out gently to the count of 11. You repeat it for two-three minutes till you feel relaxed, thinking of nothing but you’re breathing and counting.
Trying to breathe deeply, and clear my mind of all my thoughts (because apparently I have way more than I assumed) was incredibly frustrating at first. “Breathe in 1,2,3,4 – oh I wonder what I should make for dinner?” “5,6 - I wonder why he hasn’t texted me back. Did I do something wrong?” “Breathe Out 1,2,3 - random Tik Tok sound that I’ve had stuck in my head for days starts playing.”
Like untangling a ball of yarn, I could began to see that my stress wasn’t one homogenous lump.
Almost without noticing, however, I felt my breathing become easier, deeper. The ball of pressure that had been weighing down on my chest since this morning was still present, but more manageable. Like untangling a ball of yarn, I began to see that my stress wasn’t one homogenous lump. It was many, many thoughts intertwining. When I began to see the individual threads of thoughts, I actually began to feel grounded.
Although on first appearance this seems like a simple task, it is deceptively difficult which is exactly what it makes it so effective. Next time you feel discombobulated and your thoughts are out control, inhale, exhale, and remember that the easiest way back into your body is through the breath.
Juanita, 19, completed the activity Listen Out For The Good. Designed to shift our attention to the positive in our days, it asks the reader to list some of the positive experiences they’ve had in the past week, and invites them to reflect on it.
I’m passionate about advocating and creating a positive change that helps to de-stigmatise mental health issues.
Listen Out For The Good reiterated the importance of perspective and the power of positive thinking, even in the most challenging of predicaments. It is so very easy to become consumed by our everyday challenges and constraints; and even though I think that this is just a fundamental constituent of life, it can be very damaging to live in a state of constant stress and worry. Upon reflecting on my list, I realised that there were many things that may seem minuscule or maybe even trivial to the average person; but to me, these small moments of glory made me smile. The realisation that life is composed of moments that you can find the joy in became quite apparent to me. The idea of happiness being solely subjective and relative also became apparent.
It is never easy to ignore the difficult and painful moments in life, and the reality is that these affect everyone to some degree – but appreciating small, positive moments can create the world of change.
Jack, 18, completed the activity Write It Forward. Designed to help the reader reflect and learn from previous experiences, the activity is to write words of encouragement and support to your future self for when times are rough.
I felt a burden lift off my shoulders as I wrote this letter to myself. I felt motivated, calmer, and relaxed.
I felt a burden lift off my shoulders as I wrote this letter to myself. I felt motivated, calmer, and relaxed. But most importantly, I realised how little I supported myself emotionally in my daily life.
This exercise made me realise how harsh I can be on myself. Not because of my inner judgment (although this can at times be a pain), but because the act of omission made me cruel on myself. For instance, I didn’t realise how little I congratulated myself, acknowledged the things I should be proud of in my life, or provided that pillar of support for myself when I needed it most. It was therapeutic to step back, reflect, and be kind to the one person I’m guaranteed to spend the rest of my life with.
I do recommend this exercise for anyone who needs a little pick-me-up whether you’re having a good or a bad day. It’s a great way to find your supportive voice that will always have your back no matter what happens to you in life.
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