I received an email asking what my secret is to maintaining positivity and showing up on Facebook daily. So, 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 ensure that our bodies get good nutrition and move regularly. 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. But it is also about having overall balance so that we are not consumed by nutrition or training so much that we lose perspective.
In my mind, mental health is very similar, requiring just as much attention and concentrated effort as keeping our bodies healthy. The problem is that most people give very little attention to this aspect of themselves. Very little, and then, just like poor health, it catches up with us eventually, especially in a crisis.
So what is my secret?
Every day I meditate for approximately 20 minutes. It took time to get to a point where I could do it for this long every day. Lately, I have added another meditation in the middle of the day.
· Immediate effects of meditation are a more relaxed mind than before.
· Short-term effects are 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. It means that I don’t get to despair, depression and experience fear, and there is an underlying feeling that everything will be ok. Trust me, I did not use to feel this way, and every day 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 mental state is ‘unconditional’. Being unconditional means that (despite everything happening around me) I don’t react but 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 what is going well in my life. This process helps strengthen our mental muscles that we often fail to improve. I have been doing this for nine years, and it has helped me when drama happens. When I have drama, it is often short-lived. Focusing on drama brings more drama. I can feel my energy shift when I switch my thoughts to something that makes me laugh. Sure enough, if I am frustrated with something, my computer doesn’t work, I burn my dinner, and I accidentally 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 them. That doesn’t stop me from losing my shit… that happens, but I then notice (meditation also helps with this) and focus to shift the energy. Journaling helps with this.
Feed your mind
Read and listen to things that feed my mind. This is like nutrition for the brain. Being around people with 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 audiobooks about self-improvement, listen to CDs in my car about personal development, and 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 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 two 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 with no personal vested interest in you, and they are there to listen and make you think with questions. You always come up with solutions and see things differently, but you must be guided. It is like a group fitness instructor or personal trainer. Someone with more knowledge and experience can guide you to a mental shift. Talking about stuff in front of someone who is paid to listen is very different from bombarding a friend who has their stuff going on. I always felt guilty about dumping my bullshit on someone else, and even though it might have felt good at the moment, it didn’t later. My counsellor is someone I trust and has helped me navigate some tricky times with authenticity, integrity and honesty.
Mental Resilience takes time
All of this has trained me to recognise thoughts as being just that – thoughts. If I focus on them long enough, they become beliefs, and my life follows what I believe. I have written down what I would like my life to be – happy. And I have written down what happiness 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 overnight, but I saw a change with only one week of meditation.
All of this trains mental resilience. I can fall off the rails for a bit when a crisis hits, 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.