We've come a long way from the old ways of locking people up in asylums/sanitariums or burning people at the stake because they dared to think differently. In the last decade or so mental health has become a more openly discussed topic. More and more people are opening up about how they're feeling but sadly there is still a certain amount of stigma attached to Mental Health. People feel that it's a sign of weakness to talk about their issues - whereas in truth it takes a lot of strength and courage. People feel that they should be able to deal with things on their own – whereas in truth no one should. People feel that they will lose respect from people if they open up, or worse they feel that they'll be judged for having issues. Some people think they'll lose face if they admit (even to themselves) that there is a problem. There are many reasons why people don't open up but in this blog I want to give you my top ten things that I've done that have really helped me conquer my mental health!
Here goes – in no particular order
1. Avoid social media, the news and negative people.
Social Media is such a toxic place – if you let it be. With all the fake news, conspiracy theories and general judging that goes on; not to mention the sharing of controversial posts. Is it any wonder that more and more people get themselves wound up by it?! With the advent of Social Media people have become more vocal, choosing to hide behind their screens. They say and share things they never would have done before the rising of SM! Now I'm not saying that you should unfriend someone if you generally get on with them but you find their posts too much to bear. However, you can unfollow them. That way you don't get to see their posts. If you get curious as to what's going on you can always check out their page in your own time. That way you're taking control and looking at it their stuff because you choose to not because they're sharing it. Some people feel that they must keep informed with what's going on in current affairs. The trouble is most of the news is depressing. It's a very sad state of affairs that bad news sells. The other issue of course it that the news is rarely accurate. It's nearly always an opinion rather than a fact. Even if it is factual it's done with a particular bias depending on the views of the deliverer. With all this doom and gloom being force fed to you is it any wonder you're struggling to stay buoyant! If you find that you can't avoid negative people (you live or work with one) then you need to take control. Limit the time you spend with them. Change desks (speak to your boss). Take time out for yourself. If they keep dropping negative thoughts in to the conversation, then counteract that with a positive one. See point five for more details.
Go for a walk, jog, bike ride or swim. I love getting out for a walk in nature. I have some beautiful countryside and woodland on my doorstep. However, there are times that I really don't want to do anything. I force myself outside for at least 20 minutes and I'm always glad I did. Exercise releases endorphins which make you feel good. Fresh air does you good. If you want to can listen to music while you walk or just simply listen to the sounds around you. I'm going to add that you should also exercise your brain too. Do puzzles, colour in, draw, doodle, write...keep your brain active with fun things to do.
3. Drink Lots Of Water
Water is nature's nectar! It's our life force. Nothing can survive without water. The more natural water you can have the better. It flushes your system from toxins. Cut down on caffeine and sugary drinks. Have a glass of cold water rather than a cup of coffee or can of pop. If the taste of water bores you, add a slice of lemon to it. I'm not saying never have caffeine, pop or alcohol, but if you can drink more water – the benefits will manifest themselves. Not just in general health but mentally too.
4. Join A Support Group
Now I know in point one I said avoid Social Media. Now I'm asking you to join a support group? The support group doesn't have to be on Social Media. There are plenty of websites out there that will have groups you can join. Like a forum of like minded people. Of course there are decent groups on Social Media and there's nothing stopping you joining them. As ever, you can always ignore the people who aren't “playing by the rules” if you choose to. There are also physical support groups you can find who meet on a regular basis if that's more you thing.
5. Try Positive Thinking
This is probably one of the crucial things! Changing the way you think changes everything. If you find yourself with people who use negative phrases all the time then counteract that with positive phrases. If you find yourself constantly saying negative things then counteract that! Every negative thought or phrase you use or hear, say three positive things straight away.
6. Listen To Your Body
Many of us feel that we have to do certain things at a certain time. I have found that by listening to my body I'm working with it rather than against it. So I eat when I'm hungry, drink when I'm thirsty, rest when I'm tired. Of course you need to be sensible. If it's gone 9pm and you haven't eaten anything then having a light healthy snack is probably sensible. Otherwise you'll end up in bed feeling hungry. I am also aware that certain medical conditions such as diabetes mean that you need a more regimented eating schedule.
7. Take Time For You
There is no harm in taking some time out. If you need some time alone, take it. I do this quite regularly if I'm staying at another's home. It's especially important to do this if the conversation takes a turn for the worse. Negative, political, or anything else you find stressful are not going to help with your mental health. If you can't get some time alone, pop some headphones in and listen to some uplifting music or podcasts.
8. Sleep Well!
As we get older, we generally need less sleep. However, sleeping well is vital to mental health as well as general well being. I prefer to wake up naturally than have an alarm – that way my body is in control. However, this isn't always possible. Keep the bedroom for sleeping. Try not to have any electronic devices, apart from an alarm clock (if you need one). Listen to soothing sounds, or music. Read a bit if you want to. Don't check Social Media just before bed. Don't check emails. Do all that stuff 30 – 60 minutes before retiring to bed. Give yourself the chance to come down from all that. Meditate to help you drift off naturally if you want to.
9. Laugh A Lot
Laughter really is the best medicine. The trouble is, when we're feeling low we tend not to laugh. The more you can laugh the better it is. The nice thing about laughter is that it is contagious. The other thing about laughter is that the brain can't differentiate between a fake laugh or a real one. So try fake laughing for ten minutes. Laugh hard until your sides ache. The laugh will actually soon become genuine. Find a laughing yoga group!
10. Keep In Mind, All Things Will Pass
Nothing lasts forever. If you're in a mental funk it won't last forever. Whatever you're going through will pass. So live in each moment. Look forward to the future with a sense of fun and excitement. Learn from the past but don't live in it. Make the most of all the good things! There is a brilliant story called Also The Will Pass by Malba Tahan. Read it here.