I had postnatal depression as a new father. Mental health checks for dads should be expanded

New and expectant fathers will be offered mental health assessments if their partner is suffering from depression or anxiety, NHS England recently announced.

The NHS described the plan as “radical” and a “landmark move”. While it is vital that fathers whose partners are suffering get support, the plan still falls far short of what new fathers need. I would know. I was diagnosed with postnatal depression after my son was born and under the proposed plans, my symptoms would still be missed by the NHS.

Postnatal depression is a non-psychotic depressive disorder that can occur after the birth of a child. Between 6-13 per cent of new mothers will suffer from postnatal depression, with symptoms including persistent sadness or low mood, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed, and thoughts of suicide.

Postnatal depression in new mothers results in poorer mother-child attachmentshorter breastfeeding duration and poor child development. The cost to society is huge. In the UK, every case of maternal depression costs, on average, £74,000, with the bulk of this relating to the negative effects on the child.

Some people, including scientists, used to think that postnatal depression was mainly a result of hormonal changes post-birth, or experiences that are specific to women, including delivery complications or unsuccessful breastfeeding. But there is now wider recognition that postnatal depression can also affect new fathers. In fact, recent studies have suggested that between 8 and 11 per cent of new fathers suffer from postnatal depression.

And as with maternal postnatal depression, the condition can seriously impair father-child attachment and the nature of a father’s interactions with their child, and it can also increase behavioural and emotional difficulties in the child. Fathers with depression are also about 20 times more likely to consider suicide compared with non-depressed fathers.

Many factors are known to contribute to postnatal depression in new fathers. The most common is maternal postnatal depression. Fathers whose partners have postnatal depression are about two-and-a-half times more likely to have symptoms of depression six weeks after the birth of a child. This is why NHS England’s plan to screen fathers whose partner is suffering from mental health conditions is important and will mean many more men will receive the care they need.

But this focus still ignores new fathers, like me, whose partners do not have a pre-existing mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression. Instead, a more holistic account of the mental health of new fathers would consider their previous history of mental illness and the psychological and social context of fatherhood. For example, men often report large discrepancies between the expectations and realities of childbirth in the postnatal period. And men who experience greater difficulties with childcare.

Postnatal depression in dads can lead to behaviour problems in children

New fathers are also more likely than new mothers to return to work sooner and, in many parts of society, men are still expected to be the breadwinners. Yet new fathers are also expected to play an active role in childcare, and difficulties managing an early return to work with childcare responsibilities can contribute to symptoms of depression.

New fathers can also have difficulty developing an emotional bond with their child compared with mothers, which may increase feelings of helplessness.

But when new fathers get depressed, they are still less likely than new mothers to have their symptoms caught and are more likely to go untreated. In part, this may be because men are reluctant to disclose symptoms of mental ill health, especially if such disclosures are seen as inconsistent with ideals of masculinity. But it may also be because healthcare practitioners do not recognise depression in new fathers or provide opportunities for new fathers to raise concerns about their mental health.

In the UK, for example, the tradition of health visiting is heavily focused on mothers and children, and some health visitors are reluctant to address postnatal depression in men. As a result, fathers end up feeling overlooked following the birth of a child and their experiences rendered invisible.

The invisibility of depressive symptoms in new fathers is important because it often forces men to manage their symptoms on their own, leaving them frustrated when they are unable to do so. New fathers may also end up questioning the legitimacy of their depressive experiences and avoid or delay seeking help, as a result.

While the plans by NHS England are an important first step, there is a risk that many new fathers will continue to be let down through under-diagnosis or a lack of attention to the mental healthcare needs of new fathers. Instead, what is needed is routine screening of new fathers for depression and other mental health conditions, so that all new parents are treated equally. This, in turn, requires that healthcare practitioners who are most likely to meet new fathers have the appropriate education, training and time to engage with fathers too.

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/nhs-postnatal-depression-anxiety-mental-health-young-fathers-parent-support-a8668806.html?utm_campaign=meetedgar&utm_medium=social&utm_source=meetedgar.com&fbclid=IwAR0s6RyHcBqT3h-Ekqd8SVeiBdjoIFIvox-0lbEP7YR1yR9VSM1hdkxF8tw

How to talk to your boss about stress

A little bit of work-related stress is normal.

But when it makes you dread going to work, that’s an issue. The same goes for when stress is taking over your thoughts. When it’s making your stomach churn. When every night you’re having nightmares about missing deadlines or showing up to work late.

That’s not healthy stress. That’s a serious problem that needs to be worked through.

Once you realise you’re experiencing an overload of stress, what can you actually do?

It’s easy to bury your head in the sand, prioritise relaxation at home, and just hope that things get better.

Then there’s the temptation to quit your job and run far, far away.

But if you love your job, neither option is the answer. Instead it’s time to have a proper chat with your boss, your manager, or HR about the levels of stress you’re feeling at work, and what they can do to make things better.

Here’s our advice on how to start the conversation.

Keep a stress diary

This is an easy way to track the extent of your stress, and work out exactly what’s triggering it. Is your stress worsened by interactions with certain colleagues? Pressure to meet tricky targets? Late nights? A commute at rush hour?

For a few weeks or so, note down your level of stress, your mood, and what happens during the day – for your own reference, but also as evidence you can use when talking to your manager.

reading book
(Picture: Ella Byworth for metro.co.uk)

Know your rights

While there’s no specific law about how workplaces have to deal with stress, employers are obligated by law to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their staff (thanks, Health and Safety at Work Act).

This means that your managers do have duties under law to take reasonable steps to ensure your health at work; including your mental health.

If you feel flexible working – such as a shift in your working hours or days working from home – would make a difference, know that you have a legal right to request it. Flexible working is not just for parents and carers, and as long as you’ve been working for the same employer for at least 26 weeks, your workplace is obligated to deal with your request in a ‘reasonable manner’.

That means they’ll need to assess the advantages and disadvantages of your request, hold a meeting to discuss flexible working, and offer an appeal process.

So if you do request flexible working, your manager is legally required to give it consideration.

There are also laws in place to protect you if you have a mental health issue that is worsened by stress.

‘If your mental health problem has a significant impact on your life, it could be considered a disability under the Equality Act,’ Emma Mamo, Mind’s head of workplace wellbeing, tells Metro.co.uk. ‘This means you have a legal right to be treated fairly at work, and for an employer to make reasonable adjustments if they’re needed.

‘Reasonable adjustments are usually small inexpensive measures and can include things like changes to working hours, roles, responsibilities, break times, or working environment.’

Have a think about what would help you feel less stressed

Requests have to be reasonable, so you can’t go into a meeting asking for puppies at your desk and remote working if you know full well that these aren’t doable measures.

Using the stress diary you’ve been keeping (you did follow that first tip, right?), track what’s triggering your stress and have a think of solutions to lessen those triggers.

There are loads of options it’s worth bringing up.

You may want to try flexible working. Perhaps you’d like training to deal with new challenges. Maybe you need to work out a new way to communicate issues with your boss.

Have a ponder and write down a list of things that would make things better.

Be mindful of stress you’re piling on yourself

If your office has a working culture that expects you to stay late every day, that’s an issue that’s definitely worth bringing up.

But if you’re the type to stick around late every evening out of your own perfectionism, you need to address that.

When you’re going through your stress triggers and creating solutions, be aware that some triggers may be self-inflicted, and that some solutions will be things you need to do alone – such as going to bed at a reasonable time, taking your lunch break away from your desk, or refusing to get involved in petty gossip.

metro illustrations
(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Schedule a chat with your boss

Arrange a meeting with your boss, putting in writing exactly what the chat will be about. Explain that you’re feeling stressed and that you’d like to discuss solutions.

Trying to catch your manager right before they go into a meeting will reduce the likelihood of getting a positive resolution, and a vague email for a meeting will only make them worry that you’re quitting.

Give them time to research what measure they’re able to provide so that your conversation can be as productive as possible.

Remind yourself of your value

‘Too many people experiencing poor mental health, such as stress, anxiety and depression, still feel they need to stay silent,’ says Emma Mamo.

‘This could be for a range of reasons including not feeling comfortable disclosing their mental health problem, worrying their employer will think they can’t do their job and not wanting to be treated differently.’

Too many of us feel like we’re not able to bring up stress and other mental health issues, worrying that we’ll be fired, or we’ll look weak or incapable.

Before you go into the meeting, remind yourself of all the brilliant stuff you do at work and the reasons you were hired. Remind yourself that you’re not being unreasonable and you’re not going to get fired for asking for some help. You’re great at your job and struggling with stress doesn’t take away from that.

Try a wellness action plan

If you have no idea where to start when it comes to making adjustments at work, it’s worth using a Wellness Action Plan, which you can download for free from Mind.

That’ll help you and your boss to feel comfortable with what’s going on, with an easy guide on actions to implement and what results you’re both looking for.

It’s a handy starting point that takes away everyone’s awkwardness if you’re new to the ‘I’m stressed, what now?’ conversation.

Remember that you’re making a difference for everyone, not just yourself

‘Mind’s latest workplace wellbeing index surveyed 44,000 employees and found almost half (48%) had experienced poor mental health, such as stress, low mood, and anxiety, while working at their current organisation,’ says Emma Malmo.

‘Of those respondents, only half chose to tell their employer about their difficulties (10,554).

‘The culture of your workplace is likely to have a massive impact on how comfortable you feel in coming forward. It’s a lot easier to speak up if others have paved the way.’

If you’re the first one to have that chat, it’ll feel scary. But by pushing through and having the conversation, you’ll make it loads easier for the next person who’s struggling.

https://metro.co.uk/2018/05/21/talk-boss-stress-7556706/amp/?__twitter_impression=true&ito=desktop.article.share.top.twitter&utm_campaign=meetedgar&utm_medium=social&utm_source=meetedgar.com&fbclid=IwAR1VEnu2-mr7KgYc3jLTUR83O8gYuTtgGln3EPrZbcdCfnijQSSUA3bZ3yo

Ten minutes of exercise a day improves memory

Researchers have shown that the brain’s ability to store memories improves after a short burst of exercise.

Just 10 minutes of light physical activity is enough to boost brain connectivity and help the brain to distinguish between similar memories, a new study suggests.

Scientists at the University of California studying brain activity found connectivity between parts of the brain responsible for memory formation and storage increased after a brief interval of light exercise – such as 10 minutes of slow walking, yoga or tai chi.

The findings could provide a simple and effective means of slowing down or staving off memory loss and cognitive decline in people who are elderly or have low levels of physical ability.

The scientists asked 36 healthy volunteers in their early 20s to do 10 minutes of light exercise – at 30% of their peak oxygen intake – before assessing their memory ability. The memory test was then repeated on the same volunteers without exercising.

The same experiment was repeated on 16 of the volunteers who had either undertaken the same kind of exercise or rested, with researchers scanning their brain to monitor activity. In the brains of those who had exercised they discovered enhanced communication between the hippocampus – a region important in memory storage – and the cortical brain regions, which are involved in vivid recollection of memories.

“The memory task really was quite challenging,” said Michael Yassa, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine, and project co-leader. The participants were first shown pictures of objects from everyday life – ranging from broccoli to picnic baskets – and later tested on how well they remembered the images. “We used very tricky similar items to to see if they would remember whether it was this exact picnic basket versus that picnic basket,” he said.

The people who had exercised were better at separating or distinguishing between the different memories, say the scientists writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“An evening stroll is sufficient to get some benefit,” said Yassa, adding that the frequency and exact amount of exercise will depend on the person’s age, level of mobility, potential disability and other lifestyle factors.

The scientists also kept track of the participants’ mood changes. “With exercise you do get an enhanced mood. The question is whether that was explaining the effect we got on the behaviour or the effect we got on the brain and it wasn’t,” said Yassa.

Michelle Voss, a neuroscientist at the University of Iowa, described the findings as “intriguing”. “The brain regions involved here are also the regions that are thought to play a big role in the deterioration of memory with ageing. […] It would be really exciting to see this type of experiment in older adults,” she said.

The authors of the paper are currently using the same method to look at the effects of light exercise on older people over extended periods of time.

“Our main goal is to try to develop an exercise prescription that can be used by older adults who might have disabilities or mobility impairments, but can still adopt a very simple exercise regimen and be able to, perhaps, stave off cognitive decline,” said Yassa.

Encouraged by the results, Yassa and his team have changed their habits in the lab. “I try to do walking meetings every now and then, and we try to get up every couple of hours and go for a nice 10-minute walk. Based on my experience, not only is the group more productive, but we’re happier,” he said.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/sep/24/10-minutes-of-exercise-a-day-improves-memory?utm_campaign=meetedgar&utm_medium=social&utm_source=meetedgar.com&fbclid=IwAR2LG3IIVOYCNlJ1KLRNyehd-cx7ncBpUOoHjfzoTZVl1yE4YSUNcto_aC8

The More you Hug your Kids, the More Their Brains Develop

To borrow a phrase: love works in mysterious ways. We are born to love and, as it turns out, love and affection are necessary for both optimal positive emotional and physical development. And to be honest, nothing feels better than giving your loved one a warm embrace –or being on the receiving end.

Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter the hypothalamus produces and the pituitary gland secretes. Scientists first identified and observed it in 1906. Oxytocin is essential in the process of childbirth in mammals, stimulating uterine contractions and lactation. Later studies found its role a much deeper and far-reaching one that affects social interaction and bonding between people. Scientists call it “the love hormone“.

As Psychology Today explains “…As a facilitator of bonding among those who share similar characteristics, the hormone fosters distinctions between in-group and out-group members, and sets in motion favoritism toward in-group members and prejudice against those in out-groups. Ongoing research on the hormone is a potent reminder of the complexity of biological and psychological systems.“

This special hormone is present in both sexes, stimulating all aspects of the reproductive process, beginning with trust and sexual arousal. Oxytocin stimulates pleasure and reward centers and is the neurological basis for social bonding, especially with the people closest to you.

The brain rewards us for living with others. Oxytocin increases feelings of trust, which are intrinsic to all close personal relationships.

Some animals are solitary but humans are not. Social inclusion and interaction are necessary for our survival. This becomes evident when we become socially isolated, starting with depression and often culminating in disease.

The neurobiological mechanisms of love and attachment are a wonderful circle: we fall in love, have a baby, raise the child with love and affection, and the child continues the process.

The attraction and bonding between us are the physiological and emotional manifestations of our need to reproduce to perpetuate the species.

What’s more, oxytocin is essential for embryonic brain development. More specifically, it plays a role in blood vessel formation in the pituitary gland, which controls several physiological processes such as stress, growth, and reproduction.

New Study: The More you Hug your Kids, the More Their Brains Develop

Google Maps launches a ‘wheelchair accessible’ option for 6 cities

Google Maps on Thursday launched a “wheelchair-accessible” option for six major cities.

“In city centers, buses and trains are often the best way to get around, which presents a challenge for people who use wheelchairs or with other mobility needs,” said Google in a blog announcement. “Information about which stations and routes are wheelchair friendly isn’t always readily available or easy to find.”

To use the feature, punch in a route as you usually would, then tap on “options.” It can be found under the “routes” option.

The feature has been rolled out in six big metropolitan cities: London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney.

“We’re looking forward to working with additional transit agencies in the coming months to bring more wheelchair accessible routes to Google Maps,” said Google.

Transport for All — an organisation campaigning for more accessible transport in London —  welcomed the feature, but said its success will depend on how accurate the data Google uses is.

https://mashable.com/2018/03/16/wheelchair-accessible-google-maps/?europe=true&fbclid=IwAR28R9T3ymXcLZEEDw0QdPEBPzWlBQ6TU__90SYV-TELiJQQm-gYPXyxwRU

Join us to celebrate 12 years of Harmless…

The Venue:
Ruddington Grange Golf Club, Wilford Road, Ruddington, NG11 6NB

The Date:
Saturday 5th October 2019
6:30pm arrival for a 7pm start

The Cost:
£40.00 per head
Or a table of 10 for £350 (£35 per head)

The Event:
Three course meal with raffle, silent auction, games & live music

Dress Code:
Smart

The purpose:
To raise enough money to save more lives!

The celebration evening will mark a milestone in our work, as we celebrate our 12th anniversary, and give us the opportunity to raise revenue to keep our vital services afloat. Each year we spend time with friends and colleagues, celebrating the work that we have done and the lives that we have saved and the money we raise on the night goes directly back into our life saving services.

Please come along and join is in what will be a wonderful night, learn more about our work, celebrate our triumphs and help us to raise money to keep us driving services in the field of self harm and suicide prevention forwards.

http://www.harmless.org.uk/store/Harmless-Celebration-2019

Music Therapy In NICUs Can Help Babies Get Home Sooner

Neonatal Intensive Care Units help keep premature babies alive, but they can also be very stressful environments. Music therapy can help buffer the jarring lights and sounds to help a baby’s brain develop in peace.
 
Research shows that music therapy in neonatal intensive care units helps infants get released from the hospital early. Experts in Florida helped pioneer the practice, and now it’s expanding.
 
For centuries, lullabies have helped soothe babies to sleep. But it’s only in the last couple decades that research showed, for premature babies, these slow, simple tunes could be life-changing.
 
Rich Moats, who manages the music therapy program at AdventHealth Orlando, said babies in the neonatal intensive care unit are unique patients.
 
“The mom’s belly is the most protective environment for them, but when they’re born early they’re thrust into this world they’re not quite ready to handle,” she said.
 
“So lights, sounds, being touched at different times, learning how to eat is even a thing as adults we don’t think about that, but that could also be a stressful experience for these tiny little babies.”
 
And when a baby is stressed, that can affect its brain permanently.
 
Jayne Standley directs the music therapy program at Florida State University and is considered by many to be the pioneer of its use in NICUs.
 
She started experimenting with the treatment about 20 years ago after she learned kids born premature were 50 percent more likely to need special education when they got older.
 
“For fetuses, the neurological system develops in the third trimester, the last three months, so a baby that’s born three months early is having its brain develop in the conditions of the NICU,” she explained.
 
Those conditions can lead to unstable breathing and heart rates. Poking and prodding from medical procedures can also cause infants’ brains to associate touch with pain.
 
And living off a feeding tube for an extended period of time can leave babies with limited instinct to eat on their own.
 
So Standley and a team of FSU researchers studied whether music could help.
 
“Our first study showed just playing music to buffer the noxious sounds of the machinery in the NICU could cause the babies to be discharged up to two weeks early,” she said.
 
Over the years, Standley conducted more studies about the treatment and even helped invent an FDA-approved pacifier known as the Pacifier Activated Lullaby, or PAL, to incentivize feeding.
 
Subsequent research continues to show earlier discharge.
 
Standley said NICU music therapy has “mushroomed” in the last five or ten years. Hospitals across the nation are implementing the treatment and hiring music therapists with a special certification to work with NICU babies.
 
FSU alumna Ciele Gutierrez offers music therapy to a baby in the NICU at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.
CREDIT TALLAHASSEE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
FSU teamed up with Tallahassee Memorial Hospital in 2005 to launch the National Institute for Infant and Child Medical Music Therapy, which Standley directs.
 
The program has trained hundreds of therapists around the world, including Kelly Holden, a music therapist at AdventHealth Orlando.
 
She recently conducted a therapy session with a baby girl in the hospital’s NICU that showcased her experience.
 
The clinical term for what she was doing is multimodal neurologic enhancement.
 
“It’s a long phrase for incorporating different modes of stimulation for the infant to help them learn how to respond to a potentially even more stressful experience,” Holden explained.
 
NICU music therapy typically revolves around an infant’s gestational age, or how far along in the pregnancy they would have been had they not been born early.
 
Very premature babies can only handle simple humming and typically must be left in their incubators.
 
This young girl had been in the hospital for several weeks and progressed to receive more stimulation. Holden cradled her in her arms and her supervisor Rich Moats accompanied on guitar.
 
After a brief round of humming, Holden and Moats began to sing, which adds complexity and promotes language development.
 
As they went through a series of lullabies, including “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” the therapists constantly checked the baby’s monitor to see if any of her vital signs suggested she was overwhelmed.
 
They also observed her body language.
 
“You might see a grimaced face, they might get really red in the face,” said Holden. “They can give a halt hand which is basically their arm going straight out and their hand coming out and saying, ‘Stop! This is too much.’”
 
The baby seemed to respond well to the treatment, so Holden added another layer: touch. She lightly caressed the girl’s head, moving down to her arms and chest in a carefully coordinated order she learned about in school.
 
Holden noticed the patient’s face getting red and decided to take touch out of the equation.
 
“Some babies don’t get through the whole progression and that’s okay,” she said. “You know, if they are not being able to tolerate that, then it’s going to take them longer because we’re going to give them more time to calm.”
 
Even singing eventually proved to be too much. The therapists felt the girl arching her back and reverted to humming.
 
Training matters
Jayne Standley said overstimulating the baby with music could actually damage the brain, which is why training is so important.
 
“It’s different from somebody volunteering to say, ‘I would go into a NICU and play a harp for the babies because it’s beautiful and obviously it would soothe them,’” she said. “Every baby is developing at a different rate and the music must be applied individually, and that’s what the research tells us.”
 
It may not be in every hospital’s budget to hire a full-time music therapist, let alone one dedicated to the NICU. But Standley said getting premature babies home sooner saves hospitals money.
 
She estimates patients close to the end of their stay in a NICU cost hospitals about $3,000 a day to care for.
 
“That is a huge savings in medical costs, but the greatest benefit is that two weeks early, that baby gets to go home to its family and gets to live in a more normal environment.”
 
New mom Ashley Preston of Gainesville is eagerly awaiting that day. Her son Carter was born earlier this year close to three months premature and only weighed a pound and a half.
 
He spent the first few weeks of his life hooked up to breathing machines, barely able to move.
 
Carter began receiving music therapy as soon as it was safe. Preston said she saw noticeable differences.
 
“He was really calm, and it helped his oxygen levels, like his oxygen requirements would go down when he was in music therapy,” she said.
 
“So he just responds really well to it, so whenever he has a little moment and gets antsy, now they have a music box that’s in the room and I’ll turn the music box on.”
 
Preston said it’s not just Carter who benefits.
 
“It’s kind of helped me, because during the time he was on the oscillator, I couldn’t pick him up,” she said. “But I knew that I could play music, and they [therapists] even came and showed me how to just hum to kind of connect with him.”
 
Carter is a little over four pounds now and about the same age as a full-term baby. His mom said she’ll continue to use music to care for him once he’s home.
 
Teaching families how to maintain the benefits of music therapy after discharge seems to be a trend in how the therapy is expanding.
 
FSU and Tallahassee Memorial Hospital recently received a grant to hire a music therapist that can go into patients’ homes for six months after they are discharged from the NICU.
 
Jayne Standley said even though premature infants may be several months old by the time they leave a NICU, they’re developmentally more like a newborn.
 
“Traditionally they’re quite irritable, their stomachs take a little bit of food, they sleep for a very short time…parents get exhausted,” she said.
 
The therapist will teach parents music therapy techniques to help with their children’s eating and sleeping habits as they transition into home life. They will even teach siblings how to interact with the fragile new member of their family.
 
Standley said the effort is the latest sign of how Florida is a leader in NICU music therapy.
 
“We have been for 20 years, so we would like to stay at the forefront of this movement,” she said.
 
https://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/post/music-therapy-nicus-can-help-babies-get-home-sooner?fbclid=IwAR3PeL2iBVQQTe60e9HfOq4_tMR4PfXpqWA_VZhpMxLF3vFc9y6FlQmz-l4

The Mirror Meditation That Helps Me Fall In Love With Myself Over & Over

“Are you ready to take your self-care practice to the next level?” my teacher asked. My eyes widened. I flipped my palms up, sat up straight, and with no hesitation, replied, “Yes.”

As this point, I had been in India for almost six months. It was the tail-end of my second pilgrimage there since I’d started practicing Buddhism two years prior.

“Stand naked in front of a full-size mirror for 10 minutes every day for 30 days,” my teacher said. “You will see all of your judgments and flaws in a magnifying glass until after some time, they will fall away.”

I gulped, wondering if I was ready to truly see myself. I decided, despite my fears, to take on the challenge.

How mirror gazing helped me get to the root of my negative thought patterns.

The first few days of this mirror “challenge” were tough, to say the least. I quickly became aware of the thoughts and judgments I was holding on to about myself, and they were harsh enough to make me break down and cry at some points. Sticking with it, I began to see my 11-year-old self looking back at me as I remembered growing up and watching my mom criticize herself in the mirror, unaware that I was picking up on her subtly destructive habit. It wasn’t her fault; she just didn’t know any better. But this ultimately gave birth to the belief system that I wasn’t good enough.

Reluctantly, I stayed with the practice of really looking at myself in the mirror, watching my body breathe from my belly to the crown of my head.

After the first week, the critical voices slowly lost some strength. I began to accept my belly even when it was bloated, the cystic acne scars on my face, the discoloration from my ACL surgery. After the second week, I incorporated a mantra—”I love my beautiful, powerful, strong body”—knowing I wouldn’t speak to my 10-year-old self with critical words, so what made it OK to speak to my adult self that way?

The practice of facing myself in the mirror helped to peel away years of conditioning and prejudice and discover a new sense of self-acceptance. It ultimately helped me fall in love with myself after years of battling an eating disorder and never feeling at home in my body.

How you can cultivate self-compassion using a mirror-gazing ritual.

Through that self-acceptance, I discovered self-compassion, a Buddhist concept that means to relate to oneself with kindness. It’s a powerful emotion; one that might even be more beneficial than self-confidence in the long run. Self-compassion has taught me that my worth is unconditional and reminded me of the shared humanity that unites us all. So many of us do not feel at home in our bodies. Our inner critic runs the show while we suffer quietly.

Through this challenge, I began to forgive myself for this inner monologue of shame, judgment, and harm; for all those years I convinced myself I was unlovable. I also learned to forgive those who harmed me and forgive society for making me believe I had to look like the girl next door.

Fast-forward to today, and I now recommend this practice to all of the clients in my coaching business. Here’s how I tell them to ease into it:

1. Start by looking at your face in the mirror for five minutes, three times a week. Put on a relaxing playlist in the background. Use your breath to come back to the present moment and repeat the mantra: “I love myself; I accept myself; I am safe.”

2. After two weeks of doing that, increase to 10 minutes five times every day for one week.

3. For the last week, stand naked in front of a full-length mirror every day and repeat your mantra. Stick to the practice and show up daily, and when you catch yourself being negative, come back to kindness.

The mirror meditation has become one of my favorite methods of coming back to myself and supporting my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. I encourage you to try it out and use it as a tool for remembering your worth, for remembering who you truly are.

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/a-mirror-meditation-for-self-compassion?fbclid=IwAR3dX-cgA1dQEK9Pnzz2QE2ku1ye_mCUdyYALumSNXWBWva-r6_Y1jmnHUo