World Mental Health Day

We have a special guest post from author Krina Patel-Sage, author and illustrator of My Mindful A to Zen! An inspiring book, perfect for young readers.

Like most of my ideas, this one just popped into my head. The title came first and it was pretty self-explanatory. My Little (later changed to Mindful) A to Zen was going to be an alphabet book full of child centric ideas for emotional wellbeing. My younger son was only a few weeks old and the eldest was having lots of big feelings around certain events so the book was my message to him and his peers. A kind of guidebook for dealing with the difficulties that life can throw at us with resilience and a healthy emotional outlook. 

Some of the first entries that came to mind were: Hug; physical connection is so important to us, right from the beginning of life before we can even comprehend anything else. Letting go; being able to move on from negativity and truly find peace is essential for mental wellbeing. Creativity; this is a very personal one but I think so many more people began to tune into their creative sides during lockdown with anything from cooking to crochet. Having something to pour your energy into and a finished product that you can maybe give to someone else to enjoy is an incredibly positive thing. 

I’m very critical of my own work, constantly assessing its relevance and credibility so it’s nice to find myself applying the principles of the book to daily life. Most of the entries are so simple and yet, can be so powerful in their ability to lift one’s mood or diffuse a difficult situation. For example, the joy from a smile or some kind words to a passing stranger can often be contagious and it’s lovely to think how far that little spark of joy has spread throughout the day. 

Another one that I find really useful for myself and the children is acceptance, there are so many things we can’t control in life, whether it’s the shop running out of our favourite pizza, the bus running late or someone else’s behaviour. All we can do is accept things with grace and move on, I see the alternative being a major cause of stress for so many people. 

I was at a children’s wellbeing workshop at my son’s school when I came across the 5 Ways to Wellbeing. These 5 components (connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give) have been proven to boost mental health, increase positivity and help us get the best out of life. I decided to incorporate one or more of these components into each letter of the book. This really helped to tie the concept together and keep the focus on promoting mental wellbeing. 

I began working on the concept in May 2019 submitting the cover, a few images, and most of the haiku to Lantana a few months later but didn’t sign the contract with them until March 2020, just as the pandemic was unfolding. The book seemed to be somewhat prophetic, (right down to the rainbow colour theme!) taking on a whole new relevance during this time. My son wasn’t able to go to school so days were spent taking both boys on long walks in the woods, noticing “small wonders”, as the nature entry in the book says. We had to find new ways to connect with loved ones that we could no longer see in person. Everyone was really taking the time to slow down and focus on their wellbeing with things like P.E with Joe and wholesome activities like baking bread. A to Zen is all about this more positive, mindful way of living, something that I hope will retain its relevance for years to come. 

My Mindful A to Zen is available now from Lantana Publishing.

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