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5 Things You Need to Change to Improve Your Mental Health

How the things you do affect the way you think.

5 Things You Need to Change to Improve Your Mental Health

Working with clients from diverse backgrounds, different income classes and all walks of life, one thing is certain—no one is exempt from depression. Life has its high and low moments. During the high, it’s really good. And during the bad, it can get really bad if you don’t take action or know what to do. We all need guidance at one point or another. Therapy is really helpful or at least reaching out to someone and asking for help. But there are things you can do on your own to help improve your mental health. Many clinicians use different forms of therapies. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely used to treat mental illnesses from anxiety and depression to PTSD. What is CBT? In a nutshell, CBT is a type of psychological treatment that focuses on the client’s cognitive and behavioral patterns. CBT’s technique is to change one’s maladaptive thinking as your “thoughts” become your “emotions” and your “emotions” are the result of your behavior:

CBT Model

This form of therapy is extremely effective since the client can learn CBT and continue using it long after their sessions end with a mental health counselor. CBT is helpful because it reframes your thinking. For instance, if I ask you right now to think of one of the saddest things that ever happened to you, tell me three things: 

  1. How does it make you feel? (i.e., sad) 
  2. What’s the result of that emotion? (i.e., depression) 
  3. And what’s the outcome? (i.e., Not wanting to get out of bed, avoidant behavior, etc.) 

Now, if I ask you to think of one of the happiest moments in your life, I want you to tell me how does that feel. And what does that emotion do to your overall being? How do you react to those positive thoughts, do they make you feel more energized? Happier? Motivated? Hopeful? I’m certain that’s a yes, yes, Yes, and YES! Your thoughts have an immense effect on how you feel and act. The trick is to know where those core beliefs you have of yourself stemmed from and to convert negative thinking into positive thoughts. For example, if you have a test coming up and think, “I’m just like my dad, terrible at math. There’s no way I’m passing that exam!” You can say instead, “I am not from the Sir Isaac Newton lineage, but I’m certainly a go-getter and I’m sure I’m going to do well on this test.” If you already believe you are going to fail, even if the test is easy, you’ve programmed yourself for failure. If you believe you’re going to do well, you just might!

Working with domestic violence clients, I took notice of how severe their thoughts are. As they sprouted from years of sexual, physical, emotional, and verbal abuse. There’s a sense of loss in many of them, low self-esteem, and sadness that is no easy feat to combat, but certainly, possible to defeat. I listen to my clients and I look at the things that may be helping or worsening their mental status by taking a holistic approach. I ask what kind of music they are listening to, or what TV shows they are watching, or which social media pages they follow. Why? Because they can all negatively impact your thoughts, which brings us to…

5 Things You Need to Change to Improve Your Mental Health:

1. MUSIC PLAYLIST: ♩ I can’t LIVE, if living is without YOU. ♩ ♪ ♫

Really? Is that so? Since when your partner/ex became oxygen and water? When? You can live without someone. It’s true. These types of songs will put you in a state of depression. Either get rid of your sad songs, or stop listening to them for a long while. You need to introduce cheerful, upbeat music to your blues. Sad songs will probably take you down memory lane, make you melancholic, and next thing you know, you’re crying and hopeless. 

2. SOCIAL MEDIA: Stop following people who are negative and pages that only get you angry or sad. You don’t have the power to change people. But you do have 100% control over what you choose to see, who you follow, and what you do.

3. NEWS: Do not entertain yourself with media that spews hatred or outlets that tell you all of the terrible things going on in this world and there’s just NO HOPE LEFT! Certainly, you have every right to read or watch the news and get informed. But watching for countless hours bad news or reading articles that recycle and reiterate the same topic over and over does nothing good for you.

4. MOVIES: If you’re watching movies about love when you’ve just broken up with someone. Or indulging in TV shows that make you upset or afraid of this planet, tell me how does that improve your condition? 

5. BOOKS: While everyone may love thrillers and books that keep one in suspense, if you suffer from anxiety or depression, these books can intensify your disorder. While it may be a distraction it shouldn’t be the only thing you’re reading or the one you should be reading now if you don’t feel emotionally or psychologically stable at the moment. Instead, indulge in self-help books or ones that have to do with a fun hobby of yours. That way you can focus on your passion and refine your skills while you’re at it!

The truth is the music you listen to, social media pages you follow, news you subscribe to, movies you watch and books you read have an impact on your thoughts, mold your feelings, and result in your behavior. We all have choices. Choose happiness at all costs! 

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