It’s never been more important to take care of your mind and mental wellbeing, as well as looking out for the people around you.
When we think about ‘mental health’, many of us are inclined to think of ‘mental illness’, when in fact mental health is actually about having a healthy mind, and the factors that contribute to that.
We pay attention to our physical health, we think about exercise, and nourishing our body with good food, and we wouldn’t think twice about getting help if we were unwell. Yet, if we are experiencing stress and anxiety, we tend to accept it as a symptom of modern-day life, we might tend to shy away from talking about it; in fact, it can often get stigmatized, and so we don’t always speak up or seek the help that we need.
There are a lot of factors in our current lifestyle that can contribute to mental un-wellness. We can feel like we’re being pulled in too many directions at once, with many demands placed on us for our time, as well as the pressure we place on ourselves, and the thoughts we think. Combine this with information overload from social media and rolling news headlines, and we can end up in significant overwhelm.
1 in 5 of us will experience a mental health issue in the next 12 months – and with COVID 19 this could be higher; 45% of us will experience an issue in our lifetime.
20% of us will experience anxiety – I can put my hand up for that one – one of the reasons I learnt the tools to help me overcome it, and why it is my passion to share this with others.
The World Health Organization also says that depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.
These are pretty significant statistics. However, you can empower yourself with tools to have good mental health.
Here are 7 ways you can keep your mental health in good shape.
Meditation helps you to gain a deeper awareness of yourself, and you can begin to understand that you are not your thoughts. You learn to become the witness and observer of your mind and can question the narratives and stories that arise. This is so powerful, as when you do it, you begin to understand that you can change the patterning, this is neuroplasticity, the ability to change your brain.
When you meditate regularly, it also helps you to process underlying stress, and decrease anxiety, while simultaneously helping you to feel more positive.
The more you practice, you develop the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which in turn helps you to be less reactionary, and more responsive, you’re able to be more present with your family, friends, colleagues, and more compassionate and kind to yourself and others.
Mindfulness is your capacity to wake up out of autopilot, to notice your thoughts, your habits, and to become present with the moment you are in.
We often spend so much time in past or future based thinking. When we are in the past, this can be in more of a depressive state, often nostalgic for what was, or possibly regretful. Whereas when we project into the future, this is where a lot of our anxiety can arise, as we go through the “what if’s”.
When you come into presence, you can notice that right then and there you actually are okay.
You also realize you have choice.
With choice you can take a step back and listen to what you need, how do you want to respond, do you need some fresh air, or some quiet time, or perhaps movement, or maybe connection with a friend?
You can begin to make active decisions of what you do moment by moment in your day and what is going to serve you best.
Moving can help shift mental states.
You might notice that when you are sad, you tend to move slower, or perhaps when you are anxious, you rush about and make jittery movements, as your mind is reflected in your body.
Your mind and body are intrinsically connected through your nervous system, and even by changing your posture can change the way you think.
Particularly, when we are stagnant, we tend to more depressive states emotionally, so by moving you can begin to shift the mind, as it helps to unblock the energy within your body and bring back in vitality and positivity.
Qi gong, yoga, walking, shaking exercises, dance and tai chi are all beneficial practices to create mental shifts.
Your mental health can affect the way you breathe, and vice a versa, so by learning to work with your breath, you can have a significant effect on your state of mind.
When we are stressed, we usually have shortness of breath, and we tend to feel anxious and panicky. Our body is tight, we tense up, our muscles are contracted, and we don’t breathe out carbon dioxide, which is detrimental to the body, that in turn affects the mind.
However, when you breathe deeply, using the whole lobes of the lungs, you increase the oxygen into the body, nourishing your cells and your organs. When you exhale fully you expel the toxins and carbon dioxide that build-up, all this, in turn, is great for your brain. When you work with your breath through different practices, you can calm the mind, and decrease overwhelms.
Try this practice HERE.
When you write down what is in your head out on paper, it literally takes what is ruminating in the mind out on to the page. By doing this regularly, you can start to notice the patterns, and what is coming up consistently that you need to address, and start to change them.
It can also literally be a brain dump, when you write with a stream of consciousness, by externalizing your thoughts, you have less to carry around in the mind.
It also helps you release pent up emotions and helps you to work through them.
When we feel ungrounded, we feel like we’re scattered, we literally blow like the wind and become affected by everything that is coming and going around us.
Swayed by other people, news headlines, social media, if we don’t have that fixed and centred place of balance within us.
Getting up in the morning and taking some time to ground, connect to nature if you can, helps set you up with steadiness for your day.
You might like to try my grounding practice HERE. It is 7 mins, but once you have the hang of it you could just do it for a couple of minutes each morning with some grounding breaths to set you up the day ahead, and you can continue to return to this whenever you feel off centre.
The tendency when we feel down is to isolate, and so many of us feel like we’re alone when we’re going through mental health issues, but the more you connect, the more you understand that there is help out there and that support is available.
When we let down our guard and show that vulnerability, we realize that we are all having a human experience, and so many of us are experiencing the same thing.
That humanness that exists within us all can bring us together, rather than move us further apart, and it creates that network of support around us.
It’s also proven that when we reach out and do something for someone else in need, it helps us to feel like we have intrinsic value and self-worth, so we begin to feel more positive about ourselves, and it helps our mood to lift.
While you may or may not be experiencing mental health issues at the moment, these are all tools that when used consistently, can help with symptoms, but are also valuable for prevention. Please also remember that if you are struggling, you can always seek help from a GP.
The more you use these practices in your daily routine, you keep your mind healthy, and are more resilient to life.
Sacha Stewart is a Meditation & Mindfulness Teacher, Kinesiologist and Mind Body Medicine Practitioner, with a background in holistic life coaching and nutrition. After working as a producer in the advertising and film industry for 20 years, she began retraining at the beginning of 2013. After discovering the tools of Kinesiology, and the power of Mind Body Medicine, when they helped her to uncover her own subconscious blocks, limiting beliefs and also health issues; they empowered her to move forward to greater wellbeing, and lead her to dive deeper into these modalities so she can assist others.
Photo: Unsplash – Tsunami Green