I’m sure I don’t need to quote stats on mental illness to you – if you’re reading this blog, you’re more than likely familiar with them. However, a specific type of mental illness that gets little air time is eating disorders. Somehow, they have become dismissed as a ‘phase’ that teenage girls go through, which is not worth discussion among adults. But anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. Eating disorders as a whole affect over 1.6 million people in the UK, many of whom are undiagnosed and at risk. Add to this the millions of people who suffer with negative body image (according to the National Centre for Eating Disorders, by the age of 10, most girls are afraid of becoming fat) and it paints a frightening picture. That’s why I’m delighted to be training to become an Eat Breathe Thrive facilitator. The non-profit is dedicated to helping people overcome mental illness – especially eating disorders – and negative body image. I have already completed Module One of the programme, through which I had the opportunity to spend 3 days with a group of inspiring women including the lady who started it all – Chelsea Roff.
Chelsea is an incredible individual. The work she has done and continues to do in supporting men and women across the world in overcoming their mental health challenges is beyond impressive. The work she has done and continues to do in changing the way eating disorders and mental illnesses are treated, and talked about by healthcare professionals is beyond impressive. Add to this the immense amount of suffering Chelsea herself has overcome to get to this stage, and the woman is truly an inspiration. I encourage you to read more on Chelsea’s story but what I want to focus on here is the 3 step programme which saved Chelsea, has saved countless others through Eat Breathe Thrive, and which I believe has the potential to teach anyone love and compassion – towards others, but more importantly, towards themselves.
2. Mindfulness – specifically, yoga and meditation are key tools in improving mental health. They have been shown to be as effective as anti-depressants in preventing relapse in patients who have previously experienced mild – moderate depression. In my own life, yoga has been a genuine blessing, which is why I felt called to train as a teacher and share it with others who may not have access to it, or who (like the me of yesteryear) have preconceptions about yoga which prevent them from exploring it. These mindful activities have the long term effect of making you more in tune with your body, in tune with your mind, and less affected by your thoughts.
3. Service – volunteering and helping others is the most immediate, most obvious way to show yourself your ability to make an impact. It forces you to get out of your own head and think of others. It provides feelings of worth and significance. These things together combine to give those with mental health challenges a purpose – something which, as well as being linked to positive mental health, has also been shown to increase life expectancy. I recently read Dan Buettner’s book, The Blue Zones, which explores the areas of the world where people live the longest. The Japanese call it Ikigai, the Costa Ricans call it Plan de Vida, I call it purpose – regardless of the word, this was a common factor in all of the blue zones. Service got Chelsea to where she is today. Purpose has helped me so far and continues to drive me forward. My hope is that through the Eat Breathe Thrive programme it can change the lives of those in need. And I’m certain that purpose can change your life too. So, what’s yours?
These 3 steps have the power to change the course of a person’s life – whether they have a mental health challenge or not. Imagine what they could do for you 🙏
Chelsea recently delivered a kick ass TED talk (below) on what she has coined The Diagnosis Effect – it talks about the above but delves deeper into why we need such programmes, and what else we can do to support those with mental health challenges. To learn more about Eat Breathe Thrive, check out the site. I will be running programmes from May 2018 so if you’re interested, get in touch.