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Fill your cup

Exploring why we should do the things that ‘fill our cups’, with Sea Sanctuary.

Words by Ashe Fox | Images by Sea Sanctuary

So the saying goes, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’. And it’s true – it means we essentially, as humans, need to look after ourselves and our own needs before we can look after others. It sounds obvious and makes perfect sense when we look at a literal empty cup and its inability to pour its contents into others. But, if it’s so obvious, then why can it be so hard to put into action?

We often find our pile of responsibilities grow, the commitments we have deepen, and before we know it, we’re running around trying to be everything for everyone and not actually taking a look at what nurtures us, feeds our souls, and gives us a zest for living. The contents of the cup gradually sink lower and lower, and even when we feel like we can’t pour much more, we still try.

Some people may have the opposite problem, and find they have the time, but no motivation to do the things that would fill their metaphorical cup. This is another big issue in itself, often stemming from poor mental health for a variety of reasons. Those who struggle in this department will often feel better when they do step out of their comfort zone and take action, if they can dig deep and find the motivation to make the first step to try.

Both scenarios can lead to us isolating ourselves more, shying away from connection with other people, and not having the will or energy to do the things we know will probably make us feel better once we’ve done them. As humans, it’s important to try new things, engage in activities that speak to our soul, and have opportunities to interact with others – and some may even be in the same boat. While we may not make time to do them, and say we’re too tired, we don’t have time, or we don’t like the idea of making plans, doing things that encourage connection or push us to try new things can often be highly energising and inspirational – the positive effects of which can seep into other areas of our lives.

Finding time to do the things that give you joy

It may be that resting, relaxing, doing gentle yoga, walking by the sea; those kinds of things fill your cup, and help you feel more energised. But equally, it could be a case of wanting the thrill of being in a big city, heading to the theatre, trying a new type of artistic activity, going sailing, surfing, or skydiving that really brings you joy. Doing things that make us happy give us the revitalisation we often so desperately need to feel alive and connected to the world around us.

What’s more, reaching out to people and doing these activities with others can make the experience even better. Meeting new people can often encourage connection and remind us of feelings we didn’t know we were missing. Studies have shown that social connection actually reduces anxiety and symptoms of depression – even though someone suffering from these things can find the thought of social engagement daunting –and can help us regulate our emotions. Not only this, but social connection can also help improve our sense of self-worth and esteem, give us more empathy capability, and can boost our immune system.

Since the pandemic, it’s been easy to be less social. We work remotely more where we can, we limit our plans now we’ve gotten used to being indoors, and many people suffered with isolation and loneliness during the lockdowns and restrictions; that hasn’t necessarily gone away. You might want to ask a friend to come with you for an activity, a day out, or just a catch up. But if you don’t have anyone to ask or that’s free to join you, sometimes looking into activities and classes near you can be a good way to see other people. Small classes or community groups can not only get you out of the house, but can also be really cathartic and see you express your feelings, and help to improve your mental health.

Building connections with proven techniques to boost your wellbeing

So why not try something new to fill your cup? Writing classes can help you get things out of your mind and onto the page, and many studies have shown that writing has a positive impact on your mental health. Keeping things inside can cause psychological distress, so expressing your thoughts through an artistic medium can really help to process them and relieve stress. It’s also been shown that writing and reflecting on what we’ve written can help raise self-awareness, which helps us in future situations and can be a good way to begin to understand ourselves better.

Perhaps writing isn’t for you, but maybe trying your hand at something artistic is. And before you try it, remember to go with an open and curious mindset, with zero expectations of how good you have to be. Often, the key to embracing and getting the most from an artistic task, is to focus less on the end result, and more on the process. You don’t need to be the best, or even good at anything you fancy trying – the act of being there, with others, and creating, is what really benefits your mental wellbeing.

If you’re less of an artistic person but fancy trying the practise of yoga for gentle body movements and breathing exercises, you’ll be pleased to know that the National Institute of Health has shown that yoga can help to manage stress, support better mental health, encourage mindfulness, and improve sleep quality.

Looking after your mental health to keep your cup full

So, your cup is feeling fuller, what now? If you’ve been working on doing the things that make you happy and improve your wellbeing, that’s something to be proud of. Keep making time to do those things and look after yourself – we often undervalue the things that really help us to feel connected to the world around us. If you feel you need some further help to set you on the road to better mental health, you can also consider speaking to a qualified mental health professional, who can help you with individual therapy, to work on things that might be hindering your happiness.

While many people turn to therapy when they’re really struggling, when you start noticing seemingly small things that impact your wellbeing, it can be a good time to reach out. Working with someone you can trust and build a relationship with can help you feel heard; it can help you understand yourself better, giving you a safe space to explore emotions, develop, and grow, and give you someone in your corner who can help you when things get tough.

Award-winning mental health care by the sea

Based in Falmouth, mental health charity Sea Sanctuary began in 2006, and has built its services around its blue health ethos—the belief that time spent near water and blue spaces has a positive impact on mental health. Its award-winning, therapeutic sailing programmes see client sailors step aboard a historic tall ship, Irene of Bridgwater. Built over a century ago, Irene is a 120ft gaffer and one of the last traditional West Country trading ketches to sail our seas. She’s quite a sight to behold, and has featured in Hollywood films, including Pirates of the Caribbean.

Sea Sanctuary also offers a range of wellbeing classes on board its floating wellbeing hub, The ARC, which is a 180ft Dutch barge permanently moored right on the water in Falmouth. This year, Sea Sanctuary added two brand new therapy pods, soundproofed, and with views of the water, so individual therapy can be undertaken in a private and peaceful place.

There are a range of wellbeing and support groups to encourage connection, as well as educational courses to help you on a journey to better mental health. Find out more about Sea Sanctuary and the services they offer by visiting the website.


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