Mental health tech and your gut

“Would you like a glass of kefir?”. That’s how we’ve been beginning our focus groups on mental health tech this month. Then I tend to go into an explanation of how probiotics are good for your gut, and therefore your mental health, and it leads into a discussion of why and how we asked LEON to sponsor our workshops on how to make good tech for mental health.

LEON are known for their naturally fast food, and we’ve used them consistently since our launch in mental health tech and co design with the private video diary app Mental Snapp. Mental Snapp is a way to actively manage your mental health using private video diaries, and is designed with people who actively manage their mental health and on the back of twenty years working in mental health and film. What we’re now doing with the workshops is co designing a new improved version of the app in collaboration with our users. We’ll launch this at the end of the year.

When I founded Mental Snapp I was aware that we might be having a lot of meetings, and I didn’t want to have the kind of meetings I’d had as an NHS governor, where you are supposedly talking about mental health but in fact stoking up on caffeine and sugar in a room with no natural light. I was determined that whenever we had meetings to discuss mental health tech, that they would be good for the mental health of the people at them, as well as those we were designing for. I determined that meant it would start with providing good food.

That’s just what we’ve been doing at these groups. We’ve been holding a series of workshops on Tuesdays in October, and tomorrow is the last one – on Halloween! Along with some delicious LEON food we’ll have some cheeky low sugar jelly snakes and a specially carved pumpkin. The reason for approaching LEON as a sponsor was their commitment to low GI food, which is particularly good for your mental health.

Think of your mental health like you think of your blood sugar. What you don’t want to do is to load up and then crash. By looking after your gut – which probiotics literally do, hence the kefir – you can look after your mind.

It’s such a simple thing, so easy to do. That’s what we’ve been hearing at our workshops. What we have realised is that people don’t want massive gestures to look after their mental health. They something that fits into their routine, that they can do almost without thinking, that is a small step, but when added up, leads to a journey. It is the little things that make a difference to your mental health. You need to build good habits that fit into your day.

In so many ways a good habit of journalling in video diaries, or any kind of diary, is like being good to yourself with food. It starts with a small resolution, that builds into a habit, that becomes a lifetime, morsel by morsel. It’s not about crash diets and crazy resolutions, it’s about making a plan you can sustain, that will last for the duration.

Sometimes you can do this on your own, sometimes you lack the willpower, and it seems like an uphilll struggle. If you get used to the highs and lows of sugar rush, you crave them. The buzz of instagram likes can be just as addictive. To be kind to yourself, you need to do things that fit into your day, have less ostensible reward, but build to make you feel good. Sometimes, in order to do that, you need a helping hand.

So, if you need that little bit of help, surround yourself with good stuff. Treat yourself right. If that means recording a video with Mental Snapp, we’d be happy to be part of your mental health day. Our users say that they feel they are making a new friend by recording regular videos, and they feel kinder to themselves as a result of doing so.

We’re holding the last workshop in this series tomorrow on the 31st and there are a couple of slots left – join us if you can. And we will hold more in the future. Visit our website and join our mailing list if you’d like to keep posted of more chances to share your experience and expertise in mental health.

If you’re looking after your mental health today, eat good food, drink water, do little things, do them well. I promise you it will do your mind good. And if you need someone to talk to, why not talk to and spend time with the person who in the end needs to be there for you more than anyone else? Catch up with yourself, take a moment to reconnect. Do just one simple thing that can build into a habit. Try downloading Mental Snapp for free – and enjoy telling your story.

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