“Mental health” refers to your overall psychological well-being. It includes the way you feel about yourself, the quality of your relationships, and your ability to manage your feelings and deal with difficulties.
Anyone can experience mental or emotional health problems — and over a lifetime, many of us will. Here are 3 practices you can do to maintain good mental health, explore your feelings and emotions and help you to understand why you react to things in the way that you do.
What is an Affirmation? An affirmation is usually a sentence of powerful words put together, like a positive statement, and this sentence is aimed to tap into your conscious and unconscious mind to motivate, challenge and push you to reach your full potential in life.
One of the key psychological theories behind positive affirmations is the self-affirmation theory (Steele, 1988) and the development of this has led to neuroscientific research aimed at investigating whether we can see any changes in the brain when we self-affirm in positive ways. There is MRI evidence suggesting that certain neural pathways are increased when people practice self-affirmation tasks (Cascio et al., 2016).
Practicing positive affirmations can be extremely simple, and all you need to do is pick a phrase and repeat it, either out loud or to yourself. What we tell ourselves, we believe so replacing the negative self-talk with a positive affirmation can have a powerful impact on your day.
You may choose to use positive affirmations to motivate yourself, encourage positive changes in your life, or boost your self-esteem and if you frequently find yourself getting caught up in negative self-talk, positive affirmations can be used to combat these often subconscious patterns and replace them with more flexible narratives.
Journaling is a self-awareness tool and one of many tools you can use to uncover what you’re really thinking and feeling, or what you really want. None of us really have the answers but journaling, especially with prompts, helps to clear through the strong emotions to dig up the stories we’re telling ourselves. It helps take all the overwhelming busyness out of our brains and put them on paper so we don’t have to keep getting exhausted managing the swirl.
The thoughts that are causing us anxiety, stress, and depression, and leading us to be so hard on ourselves, are usually mulling around in our subconscious, just below the surface, and when they are down there, there isn’t much we can do with them. So we need to bring them to the surface in order to see them, question them, challenge them, or change them.
So how can writing down all your ‘stuff’ actually work? As a counsellor, I invite all my clients to use journaling as a tool to aid their recovery, however I’m not all that good at practicing what I preach! Always using the “I haven’t got time” excuse and, to be honest at times quite scared to confront all the, sometimes horrifying stuff that’s swirling around in my head.
To start with, journaling isn’t easy but setting some time aside each day to sit by yourself with a pen and a piece of paper, or an app on your phone if you prefer, you will soon get used to embracing those overwhelming thoughts, seeing them for just what they are and in turn control your anxiety, stress and the other emotions you might be experiencing.
To start with here are 5 prompts to get you started:
1. Three things you did right this week.
2. Two flaws you can forgive yourself for.
3. Five things you are good at.
4. Three times I was courageous.
5. Picture someone who you feel judged by and what you feel that person has judged about you. Then write down all the reasons that opinion of you is wrong.
Thinking about our feelings and looking at ourselves can be challenging. But whether you put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard or spend some time deep in thought, the journey will bring you closer to the real you. It’s a journey to self-love which is so worth the ride.
Mindfulness is a very simple form of meditation that was little known in the West until recently. A typical meditation consists of focusing your full attention on your breath as it flows in and out of your body. Focusing on each breath in this way allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind and, little by little, to let go of struggling with them. You come to realise that thoughts come and go of their own accord; that you are not your thoughts. As you watch them appear in your mind, seemingly from thin air, and watch again as they disappear, you can come to understanding that thoughts and feelings (including negative ones) are temporary. They come and they go, and ultimately, you have a choice about whether to act on them or not.
Over time, mindfulness brings about long-term changes in mood and levels of happiness and wellbeing. Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness not only prevents depression, but that it also positively affects the brain patterns underlying day-to-day anxiety and stress, so that when they arise, they dissolve away again more easily. Other studies have shown that regular meditators see their doctors less often and spend fewer days in hospital. Memory improves, creativity increases and reaction times become faster.
Despite these proven benefits, however, many people are still a little wary when they hear the word ‘meditation’. So here’s a list of mindfulness myths:
• Meditation is not a religion. Mindfulness is simply a method of mental training.
• You don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor (like the pictures you may have seen in magazines or on TV), but you can if you want to. You can also practice bringing mindful awareness to whatever you are doing, on buses, trains or while walking to work. You can meditate more or less anywhere.
• Mindfulness practice does not take a lot of time, although some patience and persistence are required. Many people soon find that meditation liberates them from the pressures of time, so they have more of it to spend on other things.
Want to learn how to do this with support? Come and work with me in my therapy room in Basingstoke. Just a few sessions will give you the confidence and tools you need to improve your mental wellbeing and live an anxiety free life. www.alisonisaacstherapy.co.uk