Unless you’ve been living under a huge pile of old newspapers, empty fast food cartons and bags of your own waste, you can’t have failed to notice that one of this year’s big wellness trends is all about being clean. Not just in your body but in your home. Instagram is full of cleanspo (that’s cleaning inspiration), with a niche neat freak to suit every taste and style. From Japan there’s Marie Kondo, a kawaii manga heroine in neat pastel cardigans, whose Insta feed is minimalist perfection. Kondo’s Netflix show – Tidying Up With Marie Kondo – in which she applied her KonMari method to the homes of some of America’s biggest pack rats, saw charity shop donations in the Washington DC area leap 66% as viewers were inspired to declutter. Closer to home, there’s Lynsey Crombie, “the queen of clean”, a 40-something mother of three from Peterborough, offers more realistic aspirations for anyone with children and pets. Her Instagram feed, which has 140, 000 followers, is a riot of colour (mostly pink) and offers such gems as “happiness is a freshly cleaned house” and “being an adult is like folding a fitted sheet. No one really knows how”. I suspect Ms Crombie does. However the current Empress of the Spotless is Sophie Hinchcliffe, aka Mrs Hinch, a twenty-something homemaker from Essex. More than 2.4m people follow her Instagram account which documents her life with picture upon picture of her entirely grey home. Seriously, everything in her home is grey with the exception of her light brown cocker spaniel and the boxes of Zoflora the dog is occasionally posed alongside. I would have thought that the main advantage of a grey house is that it hides the dust, but Hinchcliffe has become the cleaning guru du jour with such tips as using an electric toothbrush to clean a wooden floor. The words “life’s too short” spring to mind but a few weeks ago, Hinchcliffe’s book of cleaning advice/memoir of her life, Hinch Yourself Happy, rocketed to the top of the hardback charts, shifting more than 100,000 copies in a week. It’s not just books that Mrs Hinch is shifting. Every time she features a new cleaning product, she creates a sell-out sensation. Her favourite product is a cloth called a “Minky” (pronounced Minkeh). By the time this column goes on line, they’ll be changing hands at £100 a pop.But the cleanstagrammers aren’t just about merchandising. Both Sophie Hinchcliffe and Lynsey Crombie have spoken about how cleaning has helped them to overcome personal challenges. Hinchcliffe turned to polishing as a way to squash feelings of anxiety and beat panic attacks. Lynsey Crombie used cleaning as a substitute for expensive therapy after her marriage broke down when she discovered that her now ex-husband was a paedophile. Scientific research bears out their experience of finding solace in order. A study by Dr Darby Saxbe, assistant psychology professor at University of Southern California discovered that female subjects who described their homes as “cluttered” were more likely to report feeling depressed than those who described their homes as being tidy. The women who felt their homes were untidy also showed higher levels of cortisol, the hormone linked to stress. Those findings make sense to me. Two and a half years ago, after the sudden death of my father, I found unexpected solace in Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, her first book about the joy of decluttering. It was a difficult time. My grief at losing Dad was compounded by career worries. While life felt like it was on a constant spin cycle, I couldn’t concentrate for long enough to read a novel. Those self-help books that were actually about taking control of life felt too strident. In contrast The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up was as soothing as a children’s story. What Kondo’s book offered was the promise of a feeling of control achieved in the simplest of ways. Even at my saddest, I could fold a sock into thirds. I could still do some ironing. Seeing a pile of flat T-shirts wasn’t quite the same as seeing a pile of pages for a new novel spew from the printer, but I built a staircase out of a pit of despair on those tiny achievements. > Even at my saddest, I could fold a sock into thirds. I could still do some ironing. Seeing a pile of flat t-shirts wasn’t quite the same as seeing a pile of pages for a new novel spew from the printer, but I built a staircase out of a pretty deep pit of despair on those tiny achievementsThere was one piece of advice in Kondo’s book that made a particular difference. She recommends that you “thank” any items you decide to chuck out while on a decluttering spree. I found this idea touching and very helpful when it came to deciding what mementoes of my beloved dad to keep. Dad could never visit me in London without bringing with him something from his shed, garage or attic. Like so many war babies, whose earliest memories were of ration books, Dad had an aversion to throwing away anything that might come in handy one day. When he wanted to tidy up his space, the easiest way was to send the things he didn’t want to live at my sister’s house or in my attic instead.Among the many “gifts” Dad had given me over the years was a bag of random cables to devices long since lost or broken beyond repair – CD players, video recorders, old kettles... he suggested I might need some of them for my tech. Since Dad made them my problem, they’d been living in a cupboard under the stairs, taking up premium real estate and gathering dust while awaiting my next visit to the tip. But as daft as it sounds, after Dad’s death that bag of cables might as well have been a bag of puppies. They were suddenly strangely alive to me. I couldn’t just chuck them away! With Marie Kondo’s help, I managed a trip to the dump, where I recycled as much as I could while muttering KonMari style mantras. “Thank you for your service, cable to a CD player I don’t think we ever owned. Thank you for making my family happy, out-dated video connector. Thank you, cable to a long lost Amstrad.”With the cables thanked and passed on, I could focus my attention on taking proper care of the things that mattered, like the birthday cards and books signed in Dad’s handwriting. Handwriting is a funny thing, isn’t it? It seems to be as unique and personal as the iris of an eye. Anyway, suffice to say that even if it only gave me the illusion of control, cleaning my house KonMari style helped me more than my cynical heart might have imagined. Of course I wouldn’t recommend tidying up as a substitute for the advice and care of a mental health professional but for me, knowing that my sadness and frustration was entirely down to the circumstances in which I found myself, it helped enormously. Though naturally as a novelist, I’m going to ignore Marie Kondo’s recent suggestion that one only keeps a handful of books, but if I had to narrow my book collection down, then The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up would definitely make the cut.
Sagar has become known in the capital for her so-called reiki facials, but she has invited me to come along for the whole shabang: a three-session course of full-body energy healing. Reiki is a Japanese healing art that works in a similar way to acupuncture to clear blockages and stagnancies of energy flow in your body. "There's only so much you can do in one session," Sagar tells me.
The feel-good effect of smiling is something you probably thought you were pretty clued up on. Psychologists revealed in the journal Psychological Bulletin that facial expressions can directly influence our mental health. Scientists looked at almost half a century of data exploring whether facial expressions affect mood.
Ariana Grande was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the Manchester Arena attack in 2017.
“I truly believe that good mental health – mental fitness – is the key to powerful leadership, productive communities and a purpose-driven self."
Under new guidance NHS psychiatrists are being encouraged to ask under-18s with mental health issues about their social media usage.
For Franz Kafka it was “the feeling of having in the middle of my body a ball of wool that quickly winds itself up, its innumerable threads pulling from the surface of my body to itself”. Recent research carried out by the Evening Standard with our Future London partner Babylon shows that generalised anxiety disorder is the number one medical condition in every one of the capital’s boroughs bar Islington (where it came in third). “I can’t recall a time when we’ve been talking about anxiety in the volumes that we are now,” says Nicky Leadbetter, CEO of the charity Anxiety UK (anxietyuk.org.uk).
More than one in 10 boys (12.2 per cent) aged between five and 10 are likely to be suffering from a mental disorder, according to new data analysis. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has examined a report published by NHS Digital last year and found that young boys are twice as likely as young girls to suffer from conditions such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety. The NHS report, which came out in November, found that one in eight children in England are living with a mental health problem and the new ONS analysis sought to establish what factors contribute to this.
“Two years into my abusive relationship I resorted to self-harm. When my abuser would threaten or attack me, I cut my wrist as a way to disarm him."