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  • Frans Lykke

My Mental Health Tool Box

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

What I often miss from podcasts, books, fireside chats and the likes, is hands-on examples of how to put a strategy into practice.

Therefore I want to share the tools I'm using throughout my daily routine.

Oak - App for breathing

I am rapidly beginning to understand the power of breathing techniques. A couple of months ago my close friend told me about the "Oak" app. Oak offers a variety of breathing techniques, whereof I use two of them often.

Firstly, I enjoy "Box" breathing which, among others, is used by the Navy SEALs, as described by Forbes. This particular technique is applied to enforce concentration, and is a potential stress reliever. In essence, you inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and finally hold your breath for 4 seconds. This you repeat several times. I usually take 4x4 sets, which equal to 4+ minutes. To me that's manageable, without being too time consuming.

I also use the breathing technique 'Deep Calm', which aims to put the body into a state of calmness and relaxation. This exercise is described as a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system, and reduces anxiety. The steps in the method are; inhaling for 4 seconds, followed by a hold of 7 seconds, and finally you exhale for 8 seconds. It's also referred to as the "4-7-8 breathing technique" - I imagine you can guess why ;) I find it particularly useful when I go to sleep.

What I highly appreciate is the visual guidance the Oak app provides. I've included an example here:

You are visually guided through each breath and how long to be in that moment (red circle in the middle), and finally, you can visually keep track of your total progress in the exercise (bar below the circle).

You can download the Oak app for IOS and enjoy it for free.

Oak also offers guided meditation, but personally I prefer the Calm app for this. You can read more about it below.

Calm - App for Guided meditation and sleep

I'll be straight up with you, I find meditation hard to practise. Therefore I need someone to guide me to twist my continously crowded mind, and help me eliminate all the noise (thoughts) that I often drown in. For this I use "Calm".

When my mind starts wandering, I remind myself of a sentence I read in Thich Nhat Hanh's book "The Art of Living". He includes a paragraph where he describes that the longest someone (as I recalled a Zen Master who practiced meditation the majority of his life) has meditated without the mind starts wandering, measured by brain acitivity, is approximately 20 seconds. This sets the bar relatively low for myself, and helps me relax.

The voice of the guidance is key for me. Otherwise, I'll begin to be annoyed rather than focusing on my meditation, sorry to say. I find the voice of Jeff Warren extremely calm, and it's like sweet music to my ears. In the Calm app he hosts a series of daily meditation practices called "Daily Trip" which I can highly recommend.

You can download the Calm app for IOS and for Android, and it requires a paid subscription.

Fun fact: You can select a background noise of your choice, and I use "Mountain Lake" which I often turn on just as white noise when I'm dedicate to work, relaxing with a hot cup of tea, or while going to sleep.

Cold Showers

Cold showers can be great for mental health because they stimulate the release of endorphins, which are natural mood boosters, and they can help reduce stress and anxiety, leaving you feeling more refreshed and mentally alert. Therefore, I have introduced cold showers as a part of my tool box to master my mind - to the extent possible of course.

When I started using cold showers, it felt like pure pain. I could hardly stand under the cold water for 5 seconds. But through time, I have learned to enjoy it. And even better; I feel that through my breathing, I have some sort of control of my body and mind.

Here are some of the reasons why cold showers are often touted as beneficial for mental well-being:

  1. Improved mood and alertness: Cold water can stimulate the body's sympathetic nervous system, leading to an increase in alertness and the release of mood-boosting neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine. This can help combat feelings of depression and lethargy.

  2. Stress reduction: Exposure to cold water is a form of stressor, and regular exposure may lead to increased tolerance to stress. This can translate to better stress management in daily life.

  3. Enhanced circulation: Cold showers can promote better blood circulation. Improved circulation may help with cognitive function and provide a sense of rejuvenation.

  4. Increased resilience: The discomfort of cold showers can be seen as a form of voluntary discomfort or "exposure therapy." Engaging in activities that push your comfort zone can improve your ability to handle challenging situations, potentially leading to increased mental resilience.

  5. Enhanced breathing control: Cold exposure can lead to deep, controlled breathing, which has a calming effect on the nervous system and can reduce anxiety.

  6. Improved sleep: Some people find that taking a cold shower before bed can help them relax and fall asleep more easily. The drop in body temperature after a cold shower may mimic the natural cooling process that occurs before sleep.

  7. Enhanced self-discipline: Incorporating cold showers into your routine can require discipline and self-control. Developing these qualities can have a positive impact on your overall mental well-being.

Well, now it's up to you if you want to join the Land Of Coldness - but I promise you, it's worth it!



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