My mind and I have been struggling to work together recently, but instead of waiting for another breakdown, I took action, and my action involved reading Ruby Wax’s book Sane New World. In this ‘manual for mental health’ Ruby talks about – among other things – ways of self-regulating your mood, which include using sense-provoking stimuli to promote feelings of well-being
This is something I was aware of before. For example, whenever I get a whiff of those Body Shop animal shaped soaps, I’m taken back to my childhood when it was all chocolate spread on toast for breakfast, bedtime stories and weekends that went on forever. I can’t help but ease up and smile with fondness at these memories. However, despite this instances, I’ve never actively used my sense of smell to help regulate my mood. Thinking about it now, I can’t believe I’ve lived for so long without using my body’s tools to such good effect.
In her book, Ruby talked about a friend of hers sniffing a scented candle whenever things get rough, or looking at a photo of herself ziplining with the biggest grin on her face. In using her sense of smell and sight she’s able to bring herself back to the present, and continue on, in a positive frame of mind, with whatever it is she’s doing. The candle smelling is a thing I’m going to be trying from now on. I’ll get a little tea light candle that smells of pine (I only have happy memories among pines) and carry it around with me in my bag, so that whenever I feel that I’m losing myself, I can pull it out, give it a smell and carry on. Or, I might grab myself a polar bear soap from the Body Shop. Fingers crossed they still sell them.
Ruby also taught me a lot of things about my brain that I didn’t know before. Reading facts and statistics about this nervous organ of mine – and noting them down on Post It Notes to stick in easy to see places – really helps me to put things into perspective. I noted a lot of things down in my notebook from Sane New World – sentences and half sentences -and I’ve put them below in the order that they are on my pages:
- Change is all we can be sure of, and our lives are uncertain.
- Be cognitively strong.
- To change the brain, all you need to do is put effort in.
- Accept the things you cannot change and change the things you can.
- Feed the wolf of joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth and compassion.
- Break habits.
- Small steps make big changes.
- Every tiny change of habit you make matters.
- Know how to manage your inner state and do something about it.