Switch off the email notifications, switch off the stress….

_85489389_85489384Do you ever switch off? REALLY switch off?

Many of us take a break by going for a walk, chilling on the sofa with a box set of our favourite programme, or having a meal out with friends. But is it really relaxation if we take our phones with us and allow it to make endless ‘ping’ ‘ring’ and ‘whoosh’ noises at us?

We would say no. Turning off a mobile phone whilst in a therapy room is a must, but it should be silent at any time we like to call ‘ours’, otherwise that time can be eaten into by a relentless stream of updates.

So we were glad to see reports in the press today, highlighting a study undertaken by psychologists at the London-based Future Work Centre, exploring email pressure’ and how it affects work-life balance.

The study found that emails, although a brilliant way to communicate, are equally good at causing our stress levels to rise. Researchers found that the two most stressful habits were leaving email alerts on all day and checking emails as soon as one gets up or lay down to sleep at night. We would add the stress of notifications from social media accounts too – Facebook and twitter streams can contact us 24 hours of the day if we let them.

The study found that turning off email updates on mobiles and laptops (and tablets too surely) will help reduce stress levels. It can also affect our perceptions of stress, as it feels as if we never get a break, when actually we have control over how we interact with our technology.

The study also found, perhaps predictably, that those in managerial positions felt higher levels of email pressure than non-managers.

Figures given by Ofcom suggest there are 2.5 billion email users worldwide, with adults spending an average of over an hour of each day on emails.

So perhaps, as we head into another year, almost certainly offering us means of communication in easier and quicker ways, we take a step back and analyse, honestly, how our lives are affected by those endless little noises we seem so reluctant to ignore….

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Prescribing nature? ‘Ecotherapy’ in the news again….

download (2)We are always keen to promote mindfulness here on this blog, especially mindfulness outside in nature. You don’t need to live in the middle of the countryside, simply taking a walk in the park can still the mind and offer relief from the stresses of the day.

If you need scientific evidence to convince you of the value of nature to our emotional well-being, then the BBC reported last week on work done by a team at Stanford University  which found that being close to the natural world can help us avoid the feeling when negative thoughts seem to be ‘stuck on repeat’.

Experiments compared the brain’s responses to walking beside a busy road with those experienced when amongst oaks, birds and squirrels, and showed decreased activity in an area of the brain linked to risk of mental illness when walking away from the stresses of urban life. Gregory Batman, a researcher on the study, said:

“There’s an increasing body of evidence showing that natural versus urban areas benefit us at least emotionally with our mood and possibly also our cognitive development too,”

Bearing in mind that more than 50% of the world’s population live in towns and cities, this is a really important finding. Batman again:

“Here’s your prescription, walk in the forest five times a week for an hour.”

Furthermore, at the Hampton Court Flower Show last week the Royal Horticultural Society was encouraging us to bring nature into our gardens by reducing the amount of hard landscaping, such as concrete paving.

The ‘Greening Grey Britain’ campaign showcased ways to make urban environments rich in both vegetation and nature.

Nigel Dunnett is Professor of Planting Design at the University of Sheffield, was behind the garden.

“We evolved with nature and it’s completely unnatural for us to be separated from it”.

We are to benefit from his work  here in the south-west, as plants from the garden are coming to Bristol to green-up areas which include St Mungo’s hostel for the homeless.

This is really nothing terrible new, as the value of ‘ecotherapy’ and the connection between humans and the land has been understood by practitioners for years. But is always good to have the issue highlighted once more.

So do you think ‘green prescriptions’ are a valuable complement to the range of treatments available for emotional distress? Would it be more effective that medication in your view?

We would love to know what you think…