I received an email and in it, I was asked what my secret is, to maintaining positivity and showing up on Facebook everyday. I’m going to share my answer with you all.
I feel that mental health is very similar to physical health. If we think about physical health, we make sure that our bodies get good nutrition, move regularly and in the fitness industry, we also focus on aspects of fitness and want to see improvements in those areas, e.g. strength, balance, flexibility, endurance (muscle and cardio) and range of motion. It is also about having overall balance so that our lives do not become consumed by focusing too much attention on nutrition or training, so that we don’t lose perspective.
In my mind, mental health is very similar and it requires just as much attention and concentrated effort as keeping our bodies healthy. The problem is, for most people, very little attention is given to that aspect of our being. Very little and then, just like poor health, it catches up with us eventually, especially in a crisis.
So what is my secret? This is what I do:
Every day I meditate for approximately 20 minutes. It took time to get to a point where I can do it for this long, and on a daily basis. Lately, I have also added a second meditation in the middle of the day.
· Immediate effects of meditation is a more relaxed mind than it was just before.
· Short-term effects is that I have been able to concentrate and focus better.
· Long term effects (I have been doing it for 12 years), is that I feel detached.
Now this is something that most people do not understand until they experience it. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have empathy or experience a range of emotions. What it means is that I don’t get to despair, depression and experience fear, and there is underlying feeling that everything will be ok. Trust me, I did not used to feel this way and everyday was an emotional roller coaster, which was incredibly draining. Detachment provides the mental space to view the world, and then have a conscious mind that can make a decision separate from what is happening around me. This is called being ‘unconditional’. Being unconditional means that (despite everything that is happening around me) I don’t react, but instead, can maintain a state of being relaxed and satisfied or happy. I know deep down, that everything is going to be ok. This is the long-term effect of meditation.
Every day I journal about what makes me happy and the things going well in my life. This is an important muscle in our minds that we often fail to strengthen. I have been doing this now for 9 years and it has really helped me when drama happens. When I have drama, it is often short lived. Focusing on drama brings more drama. The instant that I can switch my thoughts to something that makes me laugh, I can feel my energy shift. Sure enough, if I am frustrated with something, then my computer doesn’t work, and I burn my dinner and I accidently hit myself on a shelf and on and on it goes. Then the words ‘nothing is going right’ come out of my mouth. No, I created all of that. The key is to recognise when my thoughts are changing to not such great thoughts and find a way to shift it. That doesn’t stop me from loosing my shit… that happens, but I then notice (meditation also helps with this) and focus to shift the energy. Journaling definitely helps with this.
3.Read and listen to things that feed my mind.
This is like nutrition for the brain. Being around people who have lower energy, listening to the news, reading the newspaper, or even reading a rant on social media is like junk food. A little bit once in a while is ok, but it should not be your daily diet. I listen to awesome audio books about self-improvement, listen to CD’s in my car about personal development, read every day a book that will help me grow. My only junk food is TV and I watch what I want, that is my little bit of junk food. When I see a rant on social, I will not read it, it really is only someone’s opinion (which they are entitled to), but I don’t have to buy into it or agree.
I get this every 2 weeks. Oddly, sharing with your family and close friends is not always healthy. They will give you an answer that serves them. It is natural. We all do it. Counselling is different because you are sitting in front of someone, whom has no personal vested interest in you and they have been trained to listen and make you think with questions. You always come up with your own solutions and see things differently, but you need to be guided. It is like a group fitness instructor or personal trainer. Someone who has more knowledge, experience and can guide you to a mental shift. Talking about stuff in front of someone who is paid to listen is very different to bombarding a friend, who has their own stuff going on too. I always felt guilty about dumping my bullshit on someone else and even though it might have felt good in the moment, it didn’t later. My counsellor is someone I trust and has helped me navigate through some tricky times with authenticity, integrity and honesty.
All of this has trained my ability to recognise thoughts as being just that – thoughts. If I focus on them long enough, they become beliefs and then my life follows what I believe. I have actually written down what I would like my life to be – happy. And I have written down what happy looks and feels like. I can now say, having suffered from depression and eating disorders for most of my life, that I am happy. Even now. But it took training, lots and lots of training. It didn’t happen over night, but I saw a change with only one week of meditation.
All of this trains resilience, mental resilience. When a crisis hits, I can fall off the rails for a little bit, but then I see opportunities. They usually come in my meditations. And then there is the wow moment. Holy Cow batman! This is such a great opportunity to… and away I go.