Keeping your mind healthy. This is something very few people give much thought to. Many of us think about how to keep our body healthy. Some of us don’t even think about that piece much at all either. But even fewer think about feeding the mind and taking care of the mind. Having studied psychology in college along with some dealings of psychology that hit close to home, I have been very particular with treating my mind right. In my last blog I referred to positivity being like spinach for the mind, while negativity is like poison. There are many ways you can go about keeping your mind healthy or help to improve your mental health.
Handling how we deal with stress is one way we can help our mind. If we deal with stress poorly, it can be one of the biggest detriments to one’s physical and mental health. Having some sort of outlet to help relieve all the tension created by stress is a necessity. If you keep burying your stress and don’t deal with it, eventually you will pay for it. How so? Possibly getting sick all the time, performance drop-off, inability to think critically, the list goes on. Inefficiently dealing with stress can cause just about anything. This does not mean you have to avoid being stressed out, but rather, you just need to learn how to handle it. Having a healthy outlet is obviously preferable. Oftentimes people’s outlets for dealing with stress are just as bad for our bodies and mind as the stress itself. Try to avoid stress-relievers such as having copious glasses of wine, whiskey or beer per night, smoking cigarettes, or doing some other drug to take off the stress.
Exercise is a great alternative to drugs to help deal with stress. This is great because you kill two birds with one stone. You work on your physical health as well as your mental health. Exercise is a good relief from stress but it is important to note that it too is a stressor. Doing high intensity workouts daily can be just as detrimental as whatever is causing you stress. So, mix it up. Lift heavy some days, maybe go for a run on others, but move your body. Moving your body is a great way to keep your mind healthy.
Meditation is probably the best way to control how you react to stress in your life and one of the best ways to keep your mind healthy. The attention to breathing, if done correctly helps bring stress levels down. Focusing on your breath is often neglected, even though it is an easy way to control the negative effects of stress. Also with meditation, it’s time where you get to focus on yourself, how your body is feeling, what thoughts keep popping into your head etc. This is a good way to become aware of those things that may be bothering you on a daily basis that you often ignore. Ignoring the issue usually doesn’t make the issue go away, it often just festers and grows into a bigger problem. By facing the issue head on you are able to focus on the stressor and learn how to deal with it better. I used the Headspace app for a while to figure out how I wanted to meditate and I cannot speak highly enough about it. If you are interested click here and check it out for yourself.
Journaling is an underutilized tool especially as we get older. I started journaling after I had read How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. All the things that I was worried about, or stressed me out, or pissed me off, I jotted down in a notebook. Once it was apparent to myself how negative I can be, I started jotting down the highlights of the day and what I learned each day. As I did this, I became much more appreciative. I was able to deal with stress far better than I had in the past and far fewer things pissed me off. All pluses. You can start however small with journaling as you want but do start. Your future you will thank you and your mind will thank you.
Learn something. Be a lifelong learner. Reading goes a long way to help keep the mind sharp, but what’s better than reading is learning. If you can’t learn something every day (which I’d be surprised because you can google anything these days), then shoot for at least once a week to learn something new. Learning how to do something or learning about something is a way to make sure the minds plasticity stays on point. The more you make it work, the better it will work, as long as you give it some rest. You don’t always want to be in zombie mode just doing the same thing every day and letting your subconscious operate you. Stimulate your mind Craig (FRIDAY reference).
Sleeeeeeep! When we are overtired, overworked, and overstimulated our minds function very sloppily. This puts our hormones out of whack and can make dealing with stress feel impossible. We behave far different, almost irrational at times, when we do not get enough sleep. Get sleep, let the mind rest, and sort out all the action. Sleeping helps to recharge the mind, and boost our immune system, which will lead to us feeling healthier as time goes on.
Surround yourself with loving, caring, and positive people. Positivity breeds positivity, negativity breeds negativity. It’s your choice how often you expose yourself to either. Having people around you that uplift you, that you are able to talk to, get feedback from, and vent to is very important to help keep the mind healthy. You can’t depend on solely yourself for everything. If you feel you’re in it alone or you must do and solve everything by yourself, then that’s a quick way to end up with something wrong with your mind. Learn to trust, learn to love, learn to let people in, and see what it does to your spirit.
Though there are many other ways to ensure your mind stays healthy, this list helped me. I won class pessimist as a senior in high school and I know I have changed a lot since then. Studying psychology and applying some of these tricks turned my mind from one who blamed others and strived to be perfect to one who has learned to take accountability and will always look for ways to better myself. My mind feels like it is the sharpest it has ever been and my body feels and moves better than ever. At 28 I feel better than I did when I was 18 and I plan on continuing the improvement as the years progress. Pick up one of these tricks and try to make it a habit. Once you’ve turned one into a habit, try incorporating another one into your life. Remember, having control of your mind and not letting your mind control you is the true Power of Strength.