Recently, many people have been discussing Mental Health First Aid kits.
These emergency kits have been around since October of last year. They were created by three paramedics, Brad Sadat-Shafai, Dylan McAteer and Kyle Raffo, founders of MERE [Medical Emergency Response Equipment].
It was a solid idea. But the actual Mental Health First Aid Kits were rather lackluster. They contained just basic items like a stress ball, sensory cube, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy cards.
I loved the idea itself though. And it did get me thinking. What would I put in my own Mental Health First Aid Kit? Well, my three cats, obviously. But beyond that…?
Let me show you what I would put in my own Mental Health First Aid kit. And note that most of this stuff is totally free and you can easily put the kit together yourself, which I recommend you do while you read. Then, if you ever go through a rough moment, you can reach for your Mental Health First Aid kit to get the relief you need.
Let’s Make Our New Mental Health First Aid Kits
Just a note before we start. I’ve deliberately filled this list with cheap or free items you can easily get your hands on. And I’ve tried to limit the size of the “Kit” so you can easily carry it around with you. Finally, every item in this kit is proven to help with mental health.
1: Pictures of family and friends smiling [No, not those ones]
Now, we all have different thoughts and feelings about our family. And not all of them are positive. However, it’s a good idea to have pictures of family and friends on hand. And only pictures of people who make you feel positive.
Choose a few pictures of people you love smiling, and keep them with you. You can look at these pictures to remind yourself of happy times and to remember your support network.
Now, you might be thinking, “I already have pics on my phone and on social media. Why do I need to print them?”
Thing is, if you look through the photos on your phone or, heaven forbid, on social media, you will also be flooded with all sorts of other images, some of which could produce negative thoughts and feelings. You don’t want that. You want to only look at the photos that make you feel warm inside.
Print some happy pictures of family and friends that make you feel good. Carry these with you.
2: Relaxing music with nature sounds, plus headphones [BUT…]
Research from the National Academy of Sciences shows that listening to nature sounds can improve mood, decrease stress, and lessen pain. And other research shows that listening to relaxing music can relieve anxiety and even balance blood pressure.
Have some relaxing music with nature sounds downloaded to your phone, and keep headphones with you. Bonus points if they are noise canceling headphones so you can block out background noise.
Again, you might be tempted to just jump on Youtube and search for relaxing music. If you do that, you will also have to watch ads and be exposed to a flood of other information. Remember, for our Mental Health First Aid kit, we want to limit ourselves to only relaxing and positive things. So download some music to your phone so you can listen to it without being exposed to anything else.
3: Item of jewelery that reminds you of your beliefs / values
There is one item that I always have on me. It reminds me of my values and reminds me to stay mindful. That item is my meditation mala.
Personal pieces of jewelery like my mala can help to remind us of what matters. For instance, a bracelet or watch engraved with a quote that matters to you can help you to see the bigger picture. It can remind you of your values and of what truly matters in life, and that gentle reminder can do wonders when you hit a rough patch.
Just by wearing my mala, I have a constant reminder to meditate and to be mindful.
You can also achieve the same thing with a tattoo somewhere on your body where you can easily see it anytime you need to.
4: Item from your childhood for nostalgia
Amazingly, years ago nostalgia was considered a mental health condition. Today, however, experts recognise that nostalgia has a wonderful effect on mental health.
Constantine Sedikides, a researcher at the University of Southampton, states that nostalgia can help reduce loneliness, boredom, and anxiety.
That’s why you should put a childhood item in your Mental Health First Aid Kit. Make it something small but important to you, something that reminds you of your childhood.
For me, it’s my little collection of gemstones that I bought during one of the happiest times of my life: when I was touring England onstage as an actor. The stones are small enough to keep in my pocket, and they bring up some wonderful memories.
So, choose a small item that makes you feel nostalgic.
5: Small notepad and pen
When you’re feeling blue, one of the best things to do is to write down your thoughts and feelings.
When you write your thoughts down on paper you release those thoughts into the world. You also increase your mindfulness because you will be verbalising what’s in your mind.
6: Even more items for your Mental Health First Aid Kit
The above are my personal favorite items to include in a Mental Health First Aid Kit. But here are some more items you might like to consider:
- Floral essences
- Pocket statue of your deity (e.g. Buddha)
- Stress balls
- Cognitive behavioral therapy cards
- Fitness watches that track stress levels
- Various tools for meditation
Okay. So you can’t fit me in your pocket. But you can carry your phone on you, access this site, and book a private online meditation lesson with me anytime you like. When you need help, I’m here for you.
And that’s it!
With this Mental Health First Aid kit, you have plenty of little items that you can carry with you and use anytime you need them.