We are living in turbulent times, struggling with sense of safety, health, our self-worth, a deeper purpose of choices being made for us. We struggle with our bodies, relationships, careers, finances. It seems that currently there is something profound going on. It seems that there is this tremendous need for healing in the world. Affected by pandemic, economic recession, political crisis, cultural division, hostility, we are in a global mental health crisis.
Suffering society of disconnected, anxious, depressed individuals. Abusing and hating our bodies. It’s a social issue. Could it be a wake-up call?
For many of us something shocking must happen to open our eyes. We need to suffer to shift a paradigm. And just like a physical pain signals you something isn’t right in your body and activates you to get to a physician and do something to remove it, so does this big crisis.
Global issues, emotional pain and suffering signal that something is out of alignment with our true nature. Pain is a good signal, as it gets you sort out something and rushes you to a hospital. And it stops you from carrying that heavy stuff or doing other things that gave you pain in the first place. It mobilizes you to take action and change something in your life. And so, this deepening crisis is a signal too that something is out of alignment. Perhaps the reason we suffer is our true nature screaming out at us that something is not right. Begging us to recognize it, sort it out, and come back to a true nature. To readjust.
Today is World Mental Health Day.
A day when we are vocal about mental health and well-being, and what needs to be done to improve it. Time when we give a special attention to those of us who experience mental health problems. Today we rekindle our efforts to make mental health care a reality for everyone.
Sometimes I wonder why we don’t talk openly about our mental health. About painful feelings we experience, about hurt, anger and shame. About our mood swings, what triggers us, what’s eating us. About what we think, how we cope with difficulties, that we are low in energy, what we are anxious about. If it was something physical that bothered us, like a new mark on a skin, or a rash, we would probably rush to a physician the minute we noticed it. We would want to have it checked. We would demand help.
The issue with mental health is that its awareness is still limited. We still don’t know enough about what our complaints may mean, where they can come from, and what can be done to lessen the pain, or even to remove it for good. The emotional and psychological issues are still a taboo in many families. Or even worse, help is not available to those in need in many parts of the world.
Mental hygiene is an important daily practice to support and maintain our mental health. Similar to showering or brushing your teeth, it should be a necessary treatment we give ourselves to stay healthy, happy and empowered. And to prevent issues. For our benefit, it is worth making time every day to reflect and take small actions.
5 practices for better mental hygiene
- Meditation and mindfulness practices
This practice is very effective in extending a sense of calmness and relaxation. It also helps stop ruminating thoughts that may sometimes get out control. Meditation combined with breath work helps release stress, tensions, and frustration. It switches our focus to here and now and it helps ground us in the moment that lasts. It even has beneficial effects on our immune system.
If you’re not into meditating, try journaling or praying. Combined with deep, long breaths these practices may have similar, positive effects on you.
- Physical activity
Exercising is not only great for your body, but also for your mind. During physical activity chemicals like endorphins and serotonin are released in your brain and boost your mood. Also, your concentration and quality of your sleep improves too. It can also be a great way to connect and meet people and to have a break from work and daily activities. It can help you transform your body and reduce weight, but it can also boost your self-confidence and motivation. If you set goals for yourself and your workouts, every time you achieve a goal, you increase a sense of accomplishment, and that’s an important factor in building your self-confidence.
Exercising can be especially more beneficial if done in nature. So, for a maximum benefit try, for example, incorporating walking in a forest or jogging in a park into your daily practice, and observe how your mood will improve. And your body will only be thankful to you for keeping you in shape.
- Time in nature
Spending time outside and appreciating our natural, serene surroundings can also strongly benefit your mental health. For example, being around animals, gardening, spending time in green spaces like forests, or in blue spaces, like rivers or a seaside, stimulates our focus and concentration. It also boosts positive emotions, like creativity, inspiration and joy. And it reduces tensions and anger. Another great thing about spending time in nature is that it increases a sense of connection – not only to nature self, as humans are a part of nature, but also to other people, if you, for example, choose to engage in outdoor activities for your local community, or friendly interact with other people during dog walking.
- Engage in a conversation and be kind to others
If you have ever had a bad day and felt down, you will know how much difference one kind gesture and a friendly smile can do.
Engaging in a friendly conversation, even with a stranger, and exchanging a smile can have an uplifting effect on our mood and improve your coping skills – and it works both ways. You will benefit from kind acts and kind words, and so will the person you talk to. You may also join volunteering groups for an even stronger sense of purpose and belonging to the world around you. It’s a great way to reduce loneliness and create a profound sense of connection. And a human connection in a digital world is what we currently need more than ever.
- Be kind to yourself
Your thoughts and your words have the power to heal or kill you. We often wait long years to hear the words we most want to hear. We often wait for others to tell us that we are significant, loved, unique, smart. And we often never get it. We give other people that power to make us feel incomplete, unworthy, not good enough, but, fortunately, we can take this power back. The realization that “the most important words you will ever hear are the words you say to yourself” can be a game-changer. When you recognize how important it is what you think about yourself and what you tell yourself on a daily basis, you start changing your language. By choosing better words, being more forgiving towards yourself and praising yourself – you massively build up your self-worth, optimism and confidence.
So don’t wait any longer for others to tell you what you need to hear. Say this to yourself today.
Here is a practice I found especially useful in building the praise muscle. Make use of the time you spend in front of a mirror in the morning. You can do this, for example, while brushing your teeth, or combing your hair. Look yourself in the eyes and tell yourself how good and kind person you are, how caring and resilient you are. Simple phrases such as “I am enough, I am lovable, I matter” can have great benefits on your self-worth and well-being, if repeated regularly and accepted.
Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. In the end, your relationship with yourself is the longest relationship you will ever have. Make it a happy, loving one.
You’re not alone
Here are the things we can practice every day to improve our well-being and prevent issues in our emotional, psychological and spiritual sphere. There are however moments when we, or someone we know, struggles with a mental problem. Talking to someone you trust about your problems and pains really helps. In fact, even a conversation with a friend itself has therapeutic effects. When you feel heard and seen, when you have support system, and when you know someone’s got your back – it’s easier to process what’s happening inside you. You will find that talking about it can also shift your perspective and change the way you feel about a painful matter. And it can reinforce a relationship you have with the person you share your problems with.
Remember: it’s completely fine to seek professional help. Asking for help is a courageous step. Taking the first step to seek support with the problems and pains you’re experiencing can be daunting, but it can be life-changing too. There are many skilled therapists out there happy to help you ease the pain.
Mental health is not a conceit.
Mental health is not the absence of mental disorders.
It’s not something you postpone for the future.
Well-being is not last in line.
Don’t neglect it.
Mental health is connection.
To a Tribe.
To Yourself. To your heart’s desire. And your purpose.
Make time for it.
Practice it daily.
Make it your priority.