Updated: Mar 8, 2019
It’s impossible to go through life without having to make challenging decisions or navigating conflict. To some degree, all of us are faced with challenges each day. Our ability to cope with these challenges, and face them with an open heart and mind, has a lot to do with how we feel about ourselves.
If you feel strong and stable you’re less likely to fall victim to knee-jerk responses to what life throws your way. You can weigh out your decisions thoughtfully and keep your perspective. If you are stressed out, mentally wiped, physically drained every little thing becomes a battle. You see things out of proportion. What is bad seems worse, what is good is lost. You are more apt to make rash decisions without thinking through the consequences.
If you’re mindful of what is driving you, you’re less likely to respond to situations with knee-jerk responses. For example, imagine that you had a bad morning at the office. You come home that night and your significant other asks you to take out the trash. If you’re not mindful of the stress you’re carrying from the morning, you may react irrationally or feel resentful; you might make a sly comment you don’t mean. If your mindful of how you’re feeling, you might instead tell your partner how you’re feeling and how, in this moment, their comment is making you unappreciated or stressed.
While it’s impossible to control the external circumstances of our lives, we do have control over how we react. Many people pay lots of attention to their physical health; eating well and exercising regularly. But oftentimes we only pay attention to our mental health when things go off the rails. Like when we reach a breaking point with anxiety or depression. To maintain a balanced perspective on life, both physical and mental health should receive the daily attention they deserve. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on mental health.
Do you ever stop to take inventory of your mental space? Do you take time to evaluate your feelings or question why you’re feeling a certain way? Do you dig deep? Do you sit with hard feelings? For most, the answer is no. Recently, lots of people have been raving about the benefits of meditation, and for good reason. Research shows that meditation may reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) levels, reduce anxiety, increase attention span, and even fight age-related memory loss. That being said, sitting still and quieting your mind, even for 15-minutes, can seem daunting. As a person with a noisy mind, I can definitely agree. Rig the game to win in the beginning. Make it impossible to fail by aiming to only meditate 1-minute a day. Once you’re comfortable with your habit, start increasing the time. There are great apps out there that will help guide you through the mental re-change process, like Calm and Headspace.
We all have an idea of what it means to be a good person and how we would conduct ourselves in an ideal world. When we act in accordance with our values, we feel whole and balanced. With the business of everyday life and the demands on our time and patience it’s easy to stray from the ideal. The more that life piles on, the harder it can be to realign with the person you want to be. One of the keys to staying in touch with your ideal self is a daily check in. It doesn’t have to take long or be extensive, just a quick daily check-in to ask… What do I want from my life? Have my actions today aligned with the idea of my best self? What am I most grateful for?
Bring creativity into your days
It’s easy to fall into the habit of getting up, going to work, driving home, eating dinner, tuning into TV, tuning out of life, and finally, sleeping. And repeat. Life on auto-pilot might be easy, but there’s no mental nourishment and accomplishment. It’s hard to get inspired by the mundane. To feel inspired and mentally alert, find ways to bring some creativity into your days.
That might take the form of a hobby you enjoy, an artistic endeavor like painting or music making, writing or storytelling. If you haven’t been creative in a while, you’ll be surprised at how much more stimulated it makes you feel about all aspects of your life.
From a balanced, clear mind you feel more able to conquer whatever life sends you way. Whether that be financial challenges, relationship struggles, or just daily encounters.