How to improve mental health
Here we are going to talk about how to improve mental health.
How it all began
I work in the IT field for a large Moscow company. The work is interesting, but it requires a lot of concentration and, at the same time, fast switching between different tasks and projects. These factors lead to stress, accumulation of fatigue, and gradual burnout. Therefore, in 2020, I thought about the need to do something. I decided to start with regular meditations as the most affordable and popular way to find inner balance.
It turned out that sitting in one position even for 10 minutes and observing your thoughts and feelings is difficult both mentally and physically. Different thoughts constantly entered my head: from a shopping list to thinking about work projects. Legs and back began to swell after 2-3 minutes of practice. So my first Mental Health spending was an orange banana meditation pillow. Just 900 rubles, and it became much easier to sit in the “pseudo-hammer” (while with crossed legs) – the pelvis leans forward, the load on the ischial bones disappears.
Despite the knowledge, I still had big problems with concentration. Therefore, I decided to try meditation using special applications. There are surprisingly many of them in the AppStore and Google Market. In the end, I settled on two that I still use today.
The first has a Russian-language version and is called Meditopia. Inside there are several audio meditations on various topics, which are spoken by a girl announcer with a very pleasant voice. The structure of the lesson has already been thought out. It remains only to repeat and do what the coach says. This type of practice is called guided meditation.
It is believed that guided meditation is better for beginners, and more experienced “meditators” do without any audio accompaniment. A monthly subscription to Meditopia costs 349 rubles. By today I have already given 6,282 rubles to the authors: 349 rubles for 18 months. I also bought a subscription to the English-language application Headspace: 169 rubles for 18 months – 3,042 rubles. This service is the leader in the Western Mental Health application market. The creator’s record films about mindfulness with Netflix, create themed cartoons with the characters of Sesame Street.
Headspace was invented by English meditation author Andy Paddicomb. Andy has an interesting fate: he started his career as an athlete, then suddenly decided to become a Tibetan monk. He lived in the Himalayas for 10 years, after which he returned to the UK and began conducting meditation training. With the apps, my meditations have become more productive. I began to feel the beneficial effects of regular practice: I became less irritable, more collected, I learned to manage changes in my mood.
Somewhere on the Internet, I once saw neuro-hoops. These are special gadgets that need to be worn on the head. According to the creators, the hoops improve the quality and speed up the progress in meditation.
Muse offers various audio programs of meditation and sound therapy: sounds of the jungle, ocean, forest. The device works in conjunction with the application and is able to track breathing, heart rate, and body movements. At the end of the session, Muse provides feedback and corrects the student’s practice.
There are five coils inside the neuro-hoop that generate a low-intensity magnetic field. The device produces frequencies that correspond to the frequencies naturally generated in the brain in the form of brain waves: alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and theta. Later, scientists found that these waves correspond to different functional states of consciousness.
The concept of NeoRhythm seemed closer to me, so I ordered the gadget in a foreign store, including delivery. The cost was about 40,000 rubles. It seemed to me that with the neuro-hoop, my meditations would significantly improve, but there were no dramatic changes. I never reached enlightenment :). But I still recorded small improvements. After using the neuro-hoop, it became easier to calm the mind, to reach the optimal state for practice faster. Therefore, I believe that the purchase was justified.
Friends advised me to go to a retreat. They said that among like-minded people, it is better to work out psychological blocks and clamps. In a pandemic, I didn’t have much choice, so I went to a 5-day retreat in the mountains of Crimea. We were accommodated in hostel-type houses with bunk beds, a bath, and a toilet were outside. In the morning, we got together for meditation, did yoga, then had breakfast. After lunch, we went hiking, painted pictures, did functional training, and participated in tea ceremonies.
For participation, I paid 25,000 rubles, and on the whole, I liked it. It felt like some kind of pioneer camp for adults, although I know that there are more “harsh” options. For example, at Vipassana retreats, participants are silent for 10 days, do not use gadgets, and do many hours of meditation.
Yoga retreat. We lived in these houses during the retreat.
Sometime after returning from retreat, I wanted to find a program that would combine the development of mental skills with physical ones. After a short search, I came across the Wim Hof technique. This is a combination of tempering, breathing, meditation, and yoga elements. The course was invented by the Dutchman Wim Hof, who is also called the “ice man,” the author of 26 world records, which are mostly associated with staying in cold liquids.
I transferred about 17,000 rubles to the creator of the course. In return, I received links to videos, several PDF files, and access to a mobile application with a breathing timer. I liked the course, although I think its cost is a little overpriced. The Dutchman does not discover anything new: everyone has known for a long time about the benefits of hardening, the breathing technique is based on the yogic breathing control system “pranayama,” and the basic stretching exercises are unlikely to surprise anyone.
However, when you do all these exercises consistently, along with meditations, you feel a powerful effect. Tempering gives energy and vigor, stretching and breathing exercises have a good effect on internal tone, all this together significantly improves mental and physical condition.
The topic of mental health became so interesting to me that I began to read more complex literature on meditation, neurobiology. I remember several books from everything I read:
- Heinrich Dumoulin. History of Zen Buddhism: tells the story of the emergence of Buddhism and the development of Zen Buddhism, in particular;
- Dogen. Fukanzazengi: simple in form, but very deep in essence, the teachings of one of the founders of Zen Buddhism, monk Dogen;
- Daniel Goleman, Richard Davidson. Changed traits of character: a collection of scientific experiments and confirmations of the effectiveness of meditation;
- Jeremy Graves, Matthew Immergat. The light of the mind is a heavy (in the manner of presentation) but very meticulous guide to all aspects of meditation. The book is not for beginners but rather for the advanced.
Some might say that there could be more practical uses for this money. But I have no regrets about these expenses. My life really became more conscious about health: I began to understand myself better, studied my periods of productivity and unproductiveness, learned how to get out of stressful situations with minimal losses, and, in general, began to find more joyful moments in life. In addition, my hobby turned from an ordinary hobby to a way of earning money: they began to turn to me for advice, and I began to teach people the techniques of conscious living, productivity, and the ability to cope with stress.