Is It Time for a Mental Health Makeover?

Smiling bearded man sitting back and taking a break from working on his laptop at a coffee shop.

Mastering your mind is key to a healthy and happy life. (Image: Fizkes via Dreamstime)

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is essential at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Mastering your mind is key to a healthy and happy life.

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“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” — Henry David Thoreau

Let’s face it; life isn’t easy

Although we would like to think we can “do it all” and “have it all” — especially us women — the fact is, it begins to take a toll on us, both mentally and physically.

The pressures of balancing work and family life, along with all that’s happening in the world today, can be a real challenge to your mental health state. Some may find themselves in the situation of having to take care of children while also having to care for their elderly parents. It can be enough to make a person feel overwhelmed and exhausted.

But perhaps the key to holding it all together is more achievable than we think, and maybe that key lies more within us than outside of us.

If you can focus on what lies within your control, that is, what’s within you, you may find that your mental health state improves, your stress level decreases, and as a result, even your health may improve.

Let’s look at a few simple things you can do to enhance your mental health and well-being so that you’re better equipped to handle what life throws your way.

Your mental health state can be impacted by the pressures of balancing work and family life, along with all that’s happening in the world today.
The pressures of balancing work and family life, along with all that’s happening in the world today, can be a real challenge to your mental health state. (Image: Milkos via Dreamstime)

Reframe your situation

Have you ever wondered why you and a friend can experience the same event simultaneously and come away with two different memories of what happened?

One reason this phenomenon exists is that we each have our own beliefs, ideas, notions, and past experiences that color how we view the world around us. In a sense, we notice what we expect or want to see. The frame we look through can mean the difference between seeing the glass half empty or half full.

Reframing is the process of shifting your view of a situation, of looking at things in a way that breaks away from your preformed notions and beliefs — particularly the negative ones.

This technique allows you to look for the opportunities in the challenges and possibilities in the problems. It’s not a denial of your difficulties, but a realization that contained within anything are elements of both positive and negative. It’s what you choose to focus on that counts. This puts you in control of your mental health.

If you can reframe how you look at the difficult things and look for the positives in them, you can start to retrain your brain. Your mental health is often determined by your perspective on things. By teaching yourself to be “intentionally optimistic,” you can shift from a “glass-half-empty” mindset to a “glass-half-full” mindset. And the more you practice it, the easier it becomes.

When you understand that the only thing you can control is yourself, you can learn to build a foundation of peace and unshakeable calm. The external world loses its power over you.

So how can you start the practice of reframing in your daily life? For starters, you can ask yourself some simple questions:

  • How can I look at the situation in a different way?
  • What do I believe about the situation, and what am I assuming?
  • How can I empathize with the other parties and view things from their perspective?
  • What can I learn from the situation, and how can I improve myself so I can do better next time?

Asking how leads to more actionable steps, while asking why helps with introspection and understanding.

Let’s say you’re passed over for promotion; instead, it goes to your coworker. You may feel angry for being mistreated, resentful, and maybe even a bit jealous if you’re honest with yourself. But instead of focusing on what you lost, why not reframe it? Perhaps the promotion would have taken more time away from your family, or maybe it would have created more stress and pressure at work. Perhaps it’s to teach you patience or how to think of others before yourself, or to reveal one of the shortcomings you may have ignored or overlooked.

This way, you can let go of your hurt feelings and even feel happy for your coworkers.

While reframing takes effort, awareness, and practice, the payoff is tremendous. By turning lemons into lemonade, you can see the value in your hardships and be left with a sense of hope and gratitude — a positive state of mental health instead of a negative one.

A man sitting hold a book and thinking.
How can I look at the situation in a different way? (Image: motortion via Dreamstime)

Mind your thoughts

I used to think my thoughts sprang forth from my very core and were a part of the essence of who I was. But as I began to examine my thoughts more closely, I was surprised to discover that wasn’t always the case.

According to some researchers, the average person has about 70,000 thoughts per day. That’s a lot of ideas to examine. But as I began to focus on them, I discovered that many of my thoughts didn’t align with how I view myself or with who I want to be. I was shocked, and even a bit dismayed, at just how many of my thoughts weren’t what I wanted them to be.

Instead, many of my thoughts had negative roots, such as fear, anger, jealousy, resentment, laziness, competitiveness, and looking down on other people for their shortcomings, to name just a few. However, when I looked closer, I saw that many of these thoughts came from emotion rather than rational and kind thinking.

According to psychologists, if you’re not mindful, you may also catastrophize (make things seem worse than they are, common in those with anxiety), polarize (view something as either good or bad, with no in-between), and filter (focus only on the negative part of a situation and ignore the positive).

As Henery David Thoreau said: “We must think over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

This requires you to become keenly aware of what you’re thinking, eliminate the thoughts you don’t want, and then replace them with what aligns with who you want to be.

Sometimes, these thoughts seem hard to control, and the mental pressure to agree with negative thoughts may be intense. But like anything, the more you practice, the more natural it becomes and the more successful you’ll be.

You focus on the things that you give energy to, and these things then become your reality. With persistent attention and awareness, you can elevate your thoughts and improve your mental health state.

Connect with yourself

Just as it’s essential to pay attention to what you’re thinking, it’s equally important to know yourself and your core values.

If you don’t know who you are, what you stand for, or the kind of person you want to be, you’re like a leaf blowing in the wind — with no direction and no sense of purpose. When you have no moral roots to ground you, you can easily drift along with whatever comes your way. And without knowing your values, you lack a reference for evaluating your thoughts. This ultimately creates a sense of anxiety and uncertainty in your life.

Creating a morning ritual with time for a little quiet and solitude can nourish your soul and help you start the day on the right foot. With the world filled with so much noise and distractions, it can be challenging to hear what’s happening inside yourself. A short morning check-in creates a little space for this critical self-connection.

Woman walking on a trail in a park.
Creating a morning ritual with time for a little quiet and solitude can nourish your soul and help you start the day on the right foot. (Image: Vtt Studio via Dreamtime)

Slow down

Life moves fast. Taking a little time to pause daily can clear your mind and help you feel reinvigorated.

For instance, getting some fresh air and sunshine by walking in nature, or even around the block, can be a great mood elevator. Spending time in meditation or prayer or sitting down to journal your thoughts can also bring a sense of calm and peace.

A calming bedtime routine and a good night’s sleep will help your mind feel clear and refreshed, while drinking plenty of water and eating fresh fruits and vegetables will nourish and energize your body and mind.

Decluttering what’s around you also helps. If you’re working in a messy office, that physical disorganization can create a sense of mental disorganization and bring an unsettled mental feeling. Take a little time to eliminate what’s unnecessary and organize what is, both internally and externally.

Finding a creative outlet is another great way to clear your mind and can act as a type of active meditation. And don’t forget to take a deep breath and smile. When you’re lighthearted and happy, you naturally smile. But the reverse is also true — when you smile, it helps lighten your mind and elevate your mood.

Finally, make time for human connections, and practice kindness and thinking of others first. Studies have shown that those who have strong personal relationships and those who are kind and giving aren’t only mentally and physically healthier, but they even live longer.

By doing some small, simple things every day, you can come to know yourself better, see the opportunities in your difficulties, and create new habits that bring you a sense of mental calmness and fortitude.

Remember, as the Taoist sage Laozi once said: “If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.”

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