If there’s one thing (among many) that this pandemic has taught us, it’s the need to cultivate a healthy state of mind. Mental health is a branch of wellbeing that deserves more attention; what we feel determines how we feel. We’re encouraged to take off from work if we have a fever or stomachache, so why aren’t we taught to validate our emotions and take our thoughts more seriously? Mental health is tantamount to physical health: we cannot have the latter if we don’t have the former because there exists an unbreakable bond between mind and body. All things begin and end in the mind.
Whether you’ve been feeling down, stressed out, anxious, or frustrated lately, implement these six habits into your everyday life to elevate your mood and pacify your mind:
- Alter your stories. We’re all guilty of creating stories in our minds. The brain does this as a defense mechanism. Sometimes, however, the stories we fabricate don’t match reality. In the sequence of thoughts-actions-reality, our stories write the next chapter. That’s because the things we envision in our minds induce energy. And if they’re negative in nature, our stories invite negative energy that manifests in the form of situations, events, and people. Let’s say your partner isn’t picking up your calls. Depending on your previous experiences with him, you might start to think he’s mad at you, with “someone else,” or in trouble. You begin to flesh out to these thoughts, adding details such as what the other person looks like or even planning your imminent breakup. If you dread the outcome of something, you might concoct a story that involves the worst possible scenario so that if the worst does transpire, at least you’re prepared. In reality, the only thing this does is afflict your mental health and propel more doubt and desperation. The next time you find yourself creating disadvantageous stories, stop your thoughts in their tracks. Return to the present and apply logic. Examine what’s making you imagine bad things: is it a former trauma, a tendency to be pessimistic, etc.? Remind yourself that these things haven’t happened and don’t need to happen. Then, distract yourself by getting out of your head. Pick up a book, read a random article, or learn about a new topic. When you feel calmer, close your eyes and start the story again. Go through the scenes and modify them to benefit you. Alter your stories regularly to regain emotional control and project more positive outcomes in time.
- Communicate your needs. One requisite to mental health is being able to communicate your needs. This means being able to release how and what you feel not just to others, but to yourself. It’s essential to be honest with yourself so as not to build up unrealistic expectations that lead to disappointment or exasperation. Facing the truth about what’s happening in the present grounds you and introspecting on what you’d like to improve puts you in charge of your circumstances. Don’t be afraid to speak up about what’s making you upset to your boss, partner, family member, or friend. You can organize your thoughts on paper before you say them out loud. Surround yourself with supportive people with whom you can share anything without feeling ashamed or unworthy. A strong support group can gift you with greater confidence and motivation, attributes of good mental health.
- Think in the long run. A large part of mental soundness comes from making smart decisions. Decisions must be weighed in terms of the effects they’ll have on your life in the long run. Often our emotions interfere in our decision-making process; we feel apprehensive if we don’t make a choice right away or obliged to make choices that benefit others more than us. This can disturb our inner harmony, creating restless or fearful thoughts. Starting today, make decisions based on long-term consequences, not sudden whims. Always ask yourself, “If I do this, how will it affect me in one, five, and ten years from now?” and “Does this contribute to my ultimate good?” Never underestimate the power a single good decision can have to transform your life forever.
- Take different actions. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, and they’re right! This can mean taking the same actions in a relationship, your workplace, or your family. If you keep doing something that results in you feeling unhappy or dissatisfied, stop doing it and alter your strategy. You might think you have no other choice, but you do—no one decides how you should act but you! If you feel miserable in your job, don’t hesitate to have a serious conversion with your boss or seek other employment. Or if your dynamic with a toxic person is harming your mental health, don’t be think twice to distance yourself from him or her. When you shift the way you behave, others will shift the way they react to you. In this way you transmute the energy around you and by extension, the situations you attract. Changing your course of action is the only way to encourage a new outcome and feel more at ease on the inside.
- Disconnect from pressure. Your spirit is inherently tranquil; the factors that disrupt your peace of mind are all external. The truth is that the pressure of the modern world is enough to drive anyone crazy. It’s easy to get lost in the daily haze of work, traffic, bills, and trying to fulfill the needs of everyone around you. We place a lot of emphasis on connecting to others, but disconnecting is just as important. Take time to be alone each day. You can take a drive, walk in nature, sit by a lake, meditate in your bedroom, or do whatever you most want to do on your own. Don’t put off this hour of solitude; embrace is as a sacred connection with your higher self. Mute your phone, skip the music, and forget about social media. Try to find the voice of silence that speaks from within: peer inside yourself and face your shadow without fear. Visualize yourself reaching your goals and allow a surge of joy to surface. Say a prayer, repeat a few affirmations, or cry if you need to. Try to pinpoint what is most affecting your mental health and what you can do to improve it. With courage, conviction, and a solid self-relationship, you can resolve almost anything.
- Show constant gratitude. Having an attitude of gratitude goes a long way in achieving better mental health. Instead of fretting about things that didn’t go your way, take a moment to thank the universe for the many things that did work in your favor. No matter how dispirited you may be feeling or how unfair you think life has been with you, find just one reason to be grateful right now. It can be something simple or obvious, but don’t take it for granted. Then, speak your gratitude out loud. You can say things like, “Thank you for keeping me safe during that accident,” or “Thank you for giving me a roof over my head.” Take a few moments to reflect on the positive portions of your life. Remember, there’s someone in this world who would give anything to be in your place.
Your mind is the precursor to your reality. Guard it, honor it, and make it a safe haven—these actions will change not only your mental health, but your future.
To healthy minds,
Dr. Carmen Harra