Mental Health Matters
Mental health can be a tricky puzzle to figure out for any human. Some of us may experience a daily struggle to feel like our heads are above the waters of depression. Some of us may experience an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and/or panic throughout our days. And some of us may feel like we're doing pretty great having just a handful of those days when that feeling of darkness starts to creep in. Every single human is made differently and so every human needs something different to be able to stay in a place of good mental health. Of course you can say "Think Positive", live a balanced life and be a contributing part of your community but like most things worth working towards, it's easier said than done. But what does it mean to have good mental health? Well, according to the World Health Organization mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. So now that we know the WHAT, the question is HOW?
Personally, this has become an area of focus over the past few years as I've started working towards continual self-improvement, self-love and self-care. As a human who struggles with severe anxiety, I quickly learned that in order to begin improving my mental health I had to learn how to calm the anxiety. Now, I can't tell you what the perfect formula is to find your own balance in mental health but I can share my honest experience in hopes that it may encourage you to keep working at it. So, to figure out HOW, I started by asking myself a few questions; What brings me the most joy in life? What slaps that goofy smile across my face? and When do I feel most like my true self? So as I became more aware of those answers, I started leaning more into those things even on the hardest of days. I made an effort to spend more time outdoors each day because I knew that even just 10 mins in the sun could make me feel like a whole new human. I made the effort to cook at home over ordering out and ended up saving loads of money each week in turn boosting my financial morale. As a bonus, my body started feeling a lot more efficient in everything it did and I started feeling better about myself overall. I allowed myself more sleep and so sometimes that meant saying no to a late night social gathering but it also meant having a well charged battery for the next day. These efforts weren't easy initially but with time they became easier to do with the practice put in. I started noticing a change in my attitude towards life and it was hard to ignore the petty things that once bothered me before were starting to lose their effects overall. I began to take each day as it came and started focusing on what I could do within those next 24 hours ahead of me before I allowed my anxiety to alter my dreams for the week ahead. But, with continual growth in mind, I did what any adult would do; I started trying new things.
Now like any human being, trying new things can be a scary concept to embrace. But, think about how many new things you tried throughout your life and found out that you actually enjoyed them? You wouldn't have a favorite ice cream flavor or favorite author if you hadn't embrace those things as being something new to you at some point in your life right? For me, one of the first things I tried that scared me senseless was waking up really early in the morning... WILLINGLY. Being the "night owl" I was for so long, I struggled to understand why anyone would wake up a minute before they HAD to? But this concept was hard to ignore as I started noticing differences in the mental health patterns of those around me who were considered early risers in their day. I simply couldn't wrap my head around it and so I began to give a purpose to this mad process. I started my telling myself that my pack of dogs deserved an early morning walk every day. By doing this I would be providing exercise for both me and my dogs while gaining quality bonding time during the cooler hours of the summer day. This started as a groggy morning practice but overtime I found myself looking forward to the time I was about to spend with my pack. I started jumping out of bed in anticipation of the beautiful painted sunrise I was about to take in and with time my bond grew stronger between myself and my pack. I felt my spiritual connection intensify with Mother Nature and I knew deep down it was another massive step towards improving my mental health.
Being human, we all experience a level of uncomfortability in our bodies and in our minds at times. You may feel like your stomach looks too big, maybe you feel stupid in social settings or maybe you consistently question if you are even considered "beautiful" to others. Just remember that these are things every human thinks about and every human struggles with at times but know that YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, YOU ARE WORTHY and YOU ARE AWESOME. Those thoughts will come and go but when they do show up on your doorstep, you have to be mentally prepared to fight back. Know what makes you feel good about yourself and what encourages you to radiate your true beautiful self. I personally struggled with my own body positivity as a woman and had a fair share of lower back pains that made me feel older than I actually was. Knowing what yoga could do, I tried it for a few days but found myself bored and distracted through each class. Knowing that 3 days wouldn't form a habit I signed up for 30 days of yoga at home and set an achievable goal for myself along with a prize in site. I had organic motivation and by the end of those 30 days, I bought myself a new set of headphones and found that I ENJOYED the exercising I was doing. I felt more limber, my lower back pains subsided and I started to feel better about my body. With time this momentum led me to obtain a gym membership and started feeling even more connected with my body. The more I exercised, the less anxiety I felt and I began to find a sense of clarity in the deep breathing I was doing while breaking a sweat. That initially introduced me to guided meditation. Something that could calm the waters of my mind seemed nearly impossible to achieve but with practice, surprisingly meditation did just that. I was able to sort of take myself out of my own head in situations and see things from a different perspective which gave me the clarity I needed. With time, patience and daily effort, my mental state was beginning to shift even further in a positive direction.
Like for most humans, I learn as I live. I have to experience life to understand it and sometimes that means I avoid taking someone's advice all to find out that I still end up taking it after learning the hard way. Even so, I still struggling with my mental health as we all do at times but it truly takes putting in that daily effort to take steps in the right direction. Some people go to therapy regularly (which I highly recommend if you are able to), some people practice kick boxing, some people paint and some people cook. There is no perfect formula for this but as long as you are consistent, gentle with yourself, and you have a greater goal in mind, then you should be on the right track. It's about the daily grind and focusing on the next 24 hours ahead of you. Focus on the right now and give yourself the energy and love you need to bring yourself to that better mental place. Collectively all that effort over time is what makes the magic happen and before you know it, you find yourself in your happy place. So that 20 min walk may seem silly and easy to pass up but it may make a big difference in the grand scheme of things towards gaining better mental health.
OK, so that's a LOT to do...and remember. Is all of this starting to feel a bit overwhelming to you? Start small! Any progress is progress no matter the percentage. You can start by finding little ways to make your life easier for your future self like setting your clothes out for the next morning to save on time. Or you can prep your morning coffee pot so that you find yourself waking up to a pleasant aroma as you stretch your way out of bed. You'll find yourself thanking your past self on the regular in turn building confidence and love in yourself. As simple as these things may be, they will start bringing light to your days and overtime will become healthy habits overall increasing your mental state. Even just focusing on improving 1% each day can make massive strides with time.
Now all of that is peachy keen but none of it matters if it all comes to a halting stop. I'm not perfect and neither is my mental health but one thing I can say is to stay consistent and to find ways to keep your motivation. Sometimes it's easy to say "I'll just skip today" but that today becomes tomorrow and then the next day and so overtime your practice becomes weakened and you forget the benefits you felt from that practice. You might start to forget the feeling your body has when the endorphins are rushing through your body after a good workout so now you choose to sit on the couch in the evenings watching movies. 6 months later you end up cancelling your gym membership. Maybe you started feeling pretty pessimistic about life noticing that there is nothing positive going on around you. Are you watching too much of the news? Are you around people who have a negative mindset about everything? Try changing up who you choose to surround yourself with and maybe start a practice of writing down 5 things that you're grateful for at the end of your day. No matter the subject, when it comes to improving your mental health it's a daily practice with daily effort.
YOUR mental health matters <3