Many people may see the title of this post and roll their eyes.
The idea of dealing with mental health, thoughts, feelings and ‘getting all emotional’ is just not some people’s cup of tea and they try to avoid it.
And that’s cool.
But, to me, this is just as important, and probably more important, than any other part of our health.
Because we can have all the success, money, six-pack abs and everything else we desire, but if we don’t have good thoughts and feelings then it’s all pointless.
Our minds are so powerful that we can create the feeling of us being a worthless, broke, 500lb couch potato, even if the outside and ‘real world’ evidence points towards completely the opposite.
Plus, if you feel like shit all the time then it becomes extremely difficult to take positive actions.
In my view, aiming for total balance and ‘well roundedness’ in all areas of our lives is the key to happiness. And if you’re lacking in one area, then you’re lacking in all areas.
So being mentally and emotionally healthy is just massive.
Various blogs, podcasts and whatever else refer to mental and/or emotional health.
But before we go on, I think it’s important to look at what it actually is.
I suppose you could get a whole host of ‘definitions’ here depending on someone’s personal opinions or academic background.
But, to me, mental or emotional health refers to our overall psychological wellbeing in terms of how we feel about ourselves, our relationships, our lives in general and our ability to deal with the thoughts and emotions that come with the ups and downs of everyday life.
Just as with physical health, I don’t believe simply the absence of disease or problems, such as depression, is a marker for ‘being mentally healthy’. But rather that being in the best mental and emotional health sees us experiencing positive characteristics, such as strong relationships, joy and able to deal with stress.
In other words, I don’t believe you are necessarily ‘healthy’ just because you happen to not have been diagnosed with something.
So maybe this post can benefit you and help you improve your mental and emotional health, even if you maybe don’t feel like you have too much of a problem in this area.
Now I’ve been wanting to do a longer post specifically on mental and emotional health for a while.
But I’ve shied away from this subject because I haven’t felt worthy or ‘qualified’ to talk about it.
Because, if I’m honest, this is an area I struggle in myself. And in a pretty big way at times.
There are times over the past few years where I’ve suffered with anxiety, depression, apathy and generally allowing my own thoughts and feelings to fuck me over and take control.
Some days I find it extremely difficult to peel myself out of bed in the morning, face up to the day and get even the smallest amount of work done, and I have to work FUCKING HARD to get myself back to ‘normality’ (whatever that is ;) ).
And so I didn’t feel like I was in a position to start offering advice about mental and emotional health.
But then I thought that maybe I’m actually in a pretty good position to offer this advice.
Rather than being someone with all these idealistic answers talking down to anyone struggling with their mental and emotional health, I can help from a real life, been in the trenches point of view.
The original title of this post, for example, was ‘How to Master Your Mental & Emotional Health’, which is cool and would have given some great info.
But I changed it to be about what I’m doing (or am trying to do) because I wanted it to have some real life points of view around it.
Okay, okay. I know I bang on about these foundations so often that I may as well get it tattooed on my forehead.
But this is only because they are so vital.
There’s no point trying to do fancy things with supplements, ‘life hacks’ and all sorts if you aren’t doing the basics right. It’s like building your house on sand.
This is why I aim to eat in a way that makes me feel good and energised, sleep right, move my body every day and take time out to de-stress, whether this be through meditation, a walk in the park or simply ‘pushing the pause button’ for a few minutes every so often.
I’ve talked in previous podcasts about these, but specifically in “Episode #31: Using Sleep To Optimise Your Brain, Energy, Productivity, Performance & Health” and “Episode #39: Building A Badass Brain Pt. 2”.
In a nutshell, in much the same way as overlooking these basics can affect your physical health, it can also affect your brain, hormone secretion and neurotransmitter balancing and, therefore, your mental and emotional health.
So there’s my little spiel about the basics once again. Learn them. Apply them. And don’t underestimate them, whether it be for your mental health or anything else.
Now onto some less repetitive stuff!
It’s so easy to simply go through the motions each morning.
You get up, fuck around for a bit and, before you know it, it’s mid-morning and you’ve got nothing done and feel like shit.
Or you rush around getting yourself and kids ready to get out the house and as soon as you get time to breathe you start hearing that negative little voice in your head again.
Rather than trying to deal with it all as and when it comes, I like to nip this in the bud.
Morning time when I first get up is for me. Not for clients or family or Facebook friends or anything like that.
So, my little routine looks like this:
I know that may sound like a lot.
And if you have kids, I appreciate that it can be a totally different ball game.
But I invite you to try some kind of routine like this that would fit in and work for you. Just some way of looking after you in the mornings, as opposed to just allowing the day to take control of you.
This may sound very weird, but I’ve grown accustomed to ‘watching’ myself and my thoughts.
By that I mean I’ve practiced being aware and paying attention to what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling.
Now you may wonder what good this does.
But what I used to do was just allow myself to get bogged down, suppress the thoughts, distract myself and feel like it was never going to go away.
Shining a light on what you are thinking, acknowledging that it exists and being present with it can be very powerful though.
In an awesome conversation I had with Bob Buckley in Episode #15 of the podcast, he talks about a thought being just a thought. It’s not part of you and doesn’t belong to you and so you can simply watch it float by.
In other words, the simple act of being aware of what’s going on inside your head and not pushing it deep down and ignoring thoughts and feelings can be extremely powerful.
You can even go as far as writing down your thoughts. This often has the effect of us being able to take an objective look at them and to see them for what they really are.
To further this even more, it’s important to note the importance and power of your “I am” statement.
A great shift came in me when I started to ‘disown’ the label of ‘depression’ or ‘anxiety’.
Saying “I have depression” or “I am depressed” creates a story in your head that this is part of you and that it is never going to leave.
If we say “I am experiencing depressive thoughts or feelings right now” then this isn’t such a deeply ingrained, continual thing as saying “I am depressed”.
I’ll be honest and say expressing myself and my emotions is something I have always struggled with and have only very recently embraced as part of mastering my mental and emotional health.
But it is proving to be really, really effective.
Elliot Hulse talks about depression stemming from suppression and a lack of self-expression.
So this stems on nicely from the previous point about awareness.
And to remember that being aware of your feelings, but still continuing to bottle everything up inside of you is a recipe for disaster.
Now I’m not saying to go off and start flying off the handle with people expressing everything at any given moment.
But rather to practice a regular expression of the feelings inside of you and releasing of tension, particularly when we are going through moments of depression.
In fact, Elliot shares an immense ‘dynamic meditation’ to help with this in one of his many epic videos. Click here to check out his video (after you finish reading this post, of course ;) )
It is so easy to start thinking about the past and judging yourself for the mistakes you may have made.
We create this feeling of self-loathing and self-judgement as we look back at decisions we ‘should’ have made, things we wish we did or didn’t say or directions we could have moved in.
It’s as if we punish ourselves for things we’ve done in the past. And we go back there, relive it in our minds and just keep punishing ourselves over and over again.
But something I’ve been practicing is the art of simply forgiving myself for mistakes or how I may have behaved in the past.
Because I know that my past does not have to dictate my future, but it will if I choose it to.
So I have officially given myself permission to forgive myself of shitty decisions, dick head behaviour and anything in my past that I previously created a feeling of repeated self-punishment over.
Release that feeling.
We are allowed to make mistakes.
We can learn from them.
But we do not need to carry them around with us like some shitty suitcase full of self-punishment.
Learn. Let it go. And FORGIVE yourself.
I’m naturally very introverted.
And I mean properly introverted. As in, left to my own natural devices, I would probably be classed as some kind of recluse.
I’m pretty happy to, most of the time, be by myself or with people I’m very close with.
The only problem is that I sometimes allow this to go too far.
There have been times in my past where I’ve gone completely within myself, focused solely on my work and completely disregarded any kind of social life or connection with other people.
I’m sure there must have been times where I could have died and people wouldn’t have found out for days or weeks!
And, in my experience, even as a deeply introverted person, this leaves a gaping hole inside you that is forever expanding.
The only way to fill that hole is by connecting with others.
I’m talking about genuinely connecting with people. Not simply showing up to a party and talking about the weather or what’s on TV.
And this all starts from knowing and connecting with ourselves, discovering our own core values and figuring out who we are and what we believe about life.
There was a point in my life where I just recognised that I was completely shutting the real me off from the world.
So I simply made a sort of ‘pledge’ to myself to actually get over the fear of judgement and start trying to connect with people on a level I hadn’t done before.
What I mean by this is that I don’t just passively sit by and allow any old garbage to go in to my head and also have become very aware of things I say and language that I use.
I’m not going to completely rag on the news and all that stuff.
If I’m honest, I do like to know what’s going on in the world and believe there’s a time and a place to expose yourself to it.
But what I categorically will not do, or have stopped myself from doing, is constantly reading newspapers, listening to radio bulletins and watching the news at night.
Yes, it’s very, very sad some of the stuff happening in the world and political things can affect us. I’m not attempting to ‘devalue’ it in any way.
But being almost obsessed with getting more and more news, reading various opinion pieces and finding out more about what’s going on in the middle east or wherever and even allowing this stuff to be what enters your head at the start of every day is, to me, unnecessary.
I don’t know about you, but it has a severe ‘bringing down’ effect on me and I don’t want to expose myself to at every possible opportunity.
But I’m also starting to become more aware of what is actually coming out of my head as well as what’s going into it.
What kind of language am I using? What am I saying in conversations?
For example, “everything is fucked” or “this country is turning to shit” or “the economy is screwing me over” or “I feel like crap” or whatever.
These are throw away comments that a lot of people use in conversation several times a day.
And all it’s doing is reaffirming to yourself that there is something shitty going on.
So I like to try and be as aware as possible of the kind of language I’m using and not use throw away comments like this when I don’t need to.
I wrote about this in the Facebook group last week.
For some reason, I’ve always struggled to stay consistent when it comes to the ‘gratitude journals’ we’re all ‘told’ to do.
Maybe I’m just a complete weirdo, but I always seem to write down what I’m grateful for and then subconsciously look away and say "look at all this shitty stuff going on over here though!"
I feel like I’ve ‘ticked it off’ for the day and forget about it until the next day.
What I’m trying to say is that I do the gratitude journal, but don’t really ‘feel’ the gratitude at the time and during the rest of the day.
Now I know how important it is to show gratefulness and appreciation in our lives if we want to be happy and at peace.
So rather than just say ‘this isn’t for me’ and ignore this whole gratitude thing, I’ve started doing something a little different.
I’ve started actually trying to practice gratitude every day.
What I mean by this is that I use each new environment I find myself in as a 'trigger' to remind myself of something I'm grateful for.
This starts to 'train' my brain to be on the lookout for positivity and staying in that mentality of gratitude and appreciation.
Because, after all, there's no point doing a 'gratitude journal' for five minutes every morning if you spend the other 23 hours and 55 mins of the day feeling like complete shit.
So when I exit the bedroom in the morning, I am mentally ‘cued’ to show gratitude for something.
The same when I enter the kitchen or go outside or go through the doors at the gym or go to the beach.
Before you know it, you’ve built up a regular mental practice of showing gratitude in your life throughout your day.
I’m not going to lie and say this instantly works.
It takes practice and dedication to set up these ‘gratitude cues’ and you need to be prepared for the fact that you will forget them, miss some and sometimes just plain resist doing it.
I find it very, very easy to drift back in time (mentally, not literally) and start living in the past.
I also find it just as easy to start thinking about the future and getting all anxious about things that could or might happen.
Obviously, this is not a cool place to be in.
It creates depressive feelings when looking backwards and anxious feelings when looking forwards.
In order to pull myself out of this, I will literally stand up and start clicking my fingers and reminding myself to be in the present moment.
Right now, everything can be okay if I choose it to be.
It may sound completely mental, but it works.
This may be a lot to take in and feel overwhelming, particularly if you are struggling at the moment.
But this is a simple invitation to you to begin finding what works for you and taking little steps forward towards improvement.
If you feel like all of this is too much, then what can you implement?
I certainly didn’t start out anywhere near perfect, and still am not perfect to this day!
But this stuff really helps me.
And hopefully it can help you too.
Take a listen to the podcast episode for this blog post via the player at the top.
Love, Laughter & Light,