July 2018

Loneliness and Mental Health Part II

Last month’s newsletter on mental health and loneliness received an overwhelming number of responses, in fact the most feedback ever received in the more than 10 years of publishing the Cultural Synergies newsletter! Readers were touched by the subject matter and acknowledged the ubiquity of these issues at a global, national and personal level. The responses indicated that the issues of isolation and mental health are highly relevant and that many are grappling with these in our fast paced, modern and technology centred world. It prompted me to further consider how we can take steps to balance ourselves and find equilibrium whilst navigating our stressful, busy and sensory overloaded lives. The following are a few ideas that I would like to share that can help maintain a sense of well being and that you may consider incorporating into your daily life:

Meditation and Mindfulness – Using mindfulness techniques to bring your attention to the present moment has been shown to be effective in reducing the patterns of overthinking and worry that are key contributors to mental health. Taking a few moments on a daily basis to centre yourself and be present in where you are and what you are doing can make a difference.

Exercise - Making time to exercise is another powerful means of improving your mental health regardless of age or gender. Just one hour a week of exercise has a positive impact on mood and wellbeing.

Diet- It goes with out saying that having a balanced and nourishing diet makes a big difference to both your physical and mental health. Diets lacking in essential nutrients have been shown to impact wellbeing, so increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and nuts to feel better on every level.

Sleep – A good night’s sleep has a direct impact on your mental health and long-term inadequate sleep can increase the risk of stress and anxiety. Developing good sleep habits include sleep routines, regular bedtimes, avoiding using devices an hour prior to sleeping, turning the lights down and limiting your caffeine intake from mid afternoon.

Social Interactions - Being able to talk with friends and colleagues is another important aspect of wellbeing. As the old saying goes, “A problem shared is a problem halved”. Make the effort to connect with others and gain perspective with those that care about you.

Professional Counselling – Sometimes it is easier to speak with a trained professional about the issues that may be troubling you. A professional can offer techniques and suggestions tailored to your own individual situation.

Enjoy life – Engage in fun and relaxing activities in your life which may include listening to music, watching movies, playing with pets, spending time on hobbies, laughter, going to a live event, walking or getting a massage.

Develop a spiritual practice – Connect yourself to a higher power through prayer, reading spiritual texts or becoming involved with a group that aligns with your beliefs.

Engage in charity or pro-bono work – Give your time and put your energy towards making a difference by helping those in need. Not only does it give you insight into the lives of others, it adds value to your own.

Do new things - Broaden your experience by doing things you have never tried before or take up new hobbies that interest you. Do things you have always wanted to do but never quite started whether that be photography, bush walking or gardening!

Thank you again to all the readers who wrote in with thoughts, ideas and reflections…it is appreciated.

Ask Dr Tom

Are there differences in the levels of mental health in collectivist versus individualistic societies?

Dr Tom's Thoughts

While I don’t have any empirical data on this, my sense is that it will be lower in collectivist societies simply because of a sense of community and support for the individual by the group. Conversely, in collectivist societies with a high degree of shame, it may add to the mix, but again the sense of societal support would be present. The growing number of therapists and counsellors in individualistic societies highlights that people are seeking help outside of their networks.


Book Recommendation


Brilliant Mindfuless, Dr Cheryl Rezek

Dr. Cheryl Rezek, a Clinical Psychologist with an established clinical and academic career, shares her vast experience in the mental health field with this comprehensive and detailed exploration of Mindfulness.

Brilliant Mindfulness is designed to introduce and familiarise the reader with the concepts and practices of mindfulness. It provides background and discusses the evolution of Mindfulness and also gives practical information on the benefits and progress that can be made through the use of mindfulness as an ongoing practice. It is easy to read and encourages taking small consistent steps toward changing your thoughts and increasing wellbeing, stability and resilience.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300 224 636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.
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