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These 60-Minute Exercises Can Have A Positive Effect On Your Mental Health

4 MIN READ • 19th January 2022
Health and Wellbeing by Health and Wellbeing

You may not think it’s possible, but spending just 60 minutes a day doing things like puzzles and writing letters can really change your life for the better. Here’s how…

In need of a change, but not sure where to start or what it is you’re looking for? Author, Laura Archer understands. She’s written a book of habits to help you change your life a small amount each day which, over time, will lead to you overhauling your life for good. As she explains, we do certain things to aid our physical health, from specific exercises to cutting down on eating certain foods, but we don’t do the same for our mental health. Her new book Change Your Life in an Hour is packed full of exercises and advice to do just that – all of which can be done in 60 minutes. We’ve chosen some of our favourites to share with you, so why not set your alarm early, or make a point to leave your desk at lunch time to try some of these ideas and see how much better you feel? Your body and mind will thank you for it!

Puzzles

While puzzles may not strike you as the most obvious hotline to your subconscious, their ability to ground us firmly in the present is actually a fantastic way of allowing us to observe our thoughts – almost a bit like mindfulness. Depending on the type of puzzle you choose, your mind can either wander, learn to focus more intently, seek distraction from negative or anxious thought patterns, or simply flex its IQ. All the while, in the background, you will also be boosting brain activity and improving your memory – and once you’ve solved the puzzle or won the game, you’ll get that all important hit of dopamine that success always brings with it. Use the list to the right to decide which type of puzzle suits your desired outcome and thought process best. Ideally, to reap the benefits, you want something that you can build into a regular routine.

Jigsaw puzzles

Perfect for focused concentration that doesn’t require too much intellectual thinking, allowing your mind to wander while your eyes and hands do the work. A good way to bring your heart rate down and therefore calm your thought patterns. Particularly good for anxiety.

Board games

Fantastic for consuming all your thoughts and engaging your problem solving capabilities. Board games will reveal how you deal with pressure and strategy. They challenge you to think laterally and plan ahead in order to beat your opponent. Some old favourites include chess, Risk, Monopoly, Scrabble, Cluedo, Battleship… Word and

Number puzzles

Word and number puzzles are different to board games in that instead of planning ahead, you will scan back through some of your most foundational knowledge and learning. They are also usually collaborative, rather than pitched against an opponent, and so build bridges between your thoughts and another’s, leaving you with the satisfaction of well executed teamwork if you manage to solve the clues.

Logic puzzles

A logic puzzle is a problem that can be solved through deductive reasoning. Typical logic puzzles include Sudoku or codebreaking. Logic puzzles are good for training your brain to remain focused and not to give in to distractions, as you have to retain multiple combinations in your mind in order to find the winning arrangement. This type of puzzle is brilliant if you want to shut down repetitive thought patterns and divert your attention to something rational and focused.

Remember

Although the desire with any puzzle or game is to win, from your mind’s point of view, the process is the most important part. If you don’t manage to solve it, don’t worry that your time and effort have been wasted: they definitely haven’t.

Love letters

We’re used to thinking of love letters as romantic declarations, created in moments of passion, obsession and longing. But there are so many different types of love, and the focus of love letters doesn’t need to be limited to desire. It might sound mad (or vain), but asking your friends and family to send you some love letters is a fantastic way to surround yourself with some love and appreciation – and, of course, to return the sentiment in your own love letter to them. You don’t need to call it a love letter directly: you could suggest that you both send each other a short letter with a favourite memory included, plus a line about what you love about each other. If the thought of asking someone to write you a love letter makes you cringe, a really good alternative is to write yourself one. And no, it’s not tragic! Writing a love letter to yourself is fascinating because you really know yourself. You know how your mind works, you know all your habits, you know your strengths and your weaknesses. You can really be honest about what you love.

Maybe you love that you’re irrational or impulsive, or creative (even if you never do anything about it). You can praise all the parts of you that no one ever sees; all the bits that you keep to yourself, because maybe they’re a bit weird, but that you love nonetheless. Whatever it is, ignore the outside world and any negative voices that tell you you’re ‘too this’ or ‘not enough that’. You’re alone in your room. What do you love? It will be the most intimate and honest love letter you’ll ever receive.

Remember

Everyone loves a love letter. Don’t be afraid to suggest this to your friends.

How to send and receive a great love letter

Specific memories

As lovely as it is to receive a letter full of gushy adjectives, if the words aren’t linked to concrete evidence, it can feel a little like the author has just flicked through the thesaurus without much personal connection to you. Use specific memories to illustrate why you love the reader so much, so that there’s no doubt this letter is based solely on them.

Be genuine

Don’t use fancy language and don’t use humour to cover up your affection. Write the letter as you would speak it if the reader was in front of you.

Send/request love

where it’s most needed Identify if there are any insecurities that need addressing and send or request some love in this particular area. It will make your letter all the more pertinent and appreciated.

Carry your love

on into the future Finish all your love letters by saying what you hope the running theme of the reader’s life will be. With any love letter, it’s likely that the recipient will read it again and again over the years (even if this is you!), so including a wish for the future is a great way of creating a sense of continued and everlasting love

For more, read this Change Your Life in an Hour by Laura Archer (Quadrille, £8.99)

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