Update: I have published a new version of this post on my website in 2020. Please read it here.
I suspect the header of my post is the only reason you have landed on this page and my site. We all want to lead happy, fulfilling and content lives. and anything that can give us some insight into how to do that is worth a read!
Hence let me clarify something at the outset – this article is not a list of top things you can do to change your life around. However, it will explore key mindsets and behaviors that will enable you to improve your mental health so you have better control over the quality of your life.
I am by no means a doctor or a health practitioner who is certified to speak about mental health and well-being, but I am someone who has experienced these challenges and am keen to share whatever has helped me in such moments with the hope that it might help someone else too.
Before I go further, I also want to acknowledge the fact that it is very easy to speak, write or advise on the topic of mental health, but it is extremely difficult for someone who is going through periods of anxiety, depression or self-doubt to actually take helpful action. But words are just one way of leaving information that might spark positive thoughts and activities in individuals.
The world can sometimes be competitive, judgmental or difficult, and many times there could be situations that leave us feeling low. And sometimes, even when things are going right on the surface, we might be facing feelings of self doubt or anxiety in our mind.
The first thing in such moments is to acknowledge that you are not feeling all right. Irrespective of the external situation you are in (good or bad), if in your head you are having thoughts that make you feel low, anxious or helpless, then accepting your mindset is the first step towards taking some action.
Once the awareness is there, try and uncover why you are feeling what you are feeling. Easier said than done, and sometimes not as straightforward as the sentence reads. But nonetheless worth a shot. Sometimes, the reason might be external factors and when things aren’t going your way. Other times it’s our thinking or attitude – the burden of expectations, the need to stay or appear strong, inability to accept certain situations or understand why your mind is anxious when everything else seems right.
Having awareness of your mindset is by no means an exercise in feeling better. The only reason I am asking you to consider this is to stop being hard on yourself and to make peace with what you are feeling so you can start moving towards self acceptance, self care and eventually self love.
And while there exists no golden checklist that will pull you out when you are down in the dumps – everyone finds their own ways and means to deal with their feelings – there are definitely some activities you can explore that add value to your life on both good and bad days. Here are my top 5:
- Talking and sharing your feelings with family members or loved ones is one of the best ways to unload your mind. While it is not necessary to go to a practitioner (and their is no shame if you do), it is definitely prescribed you find someone you can speak to about whatever is going on in your head. Sharing your burden can make it lighter and make you calmer. Your loved ones are your biggest source of strength – tap into that energy often!
- Writing is another great way of getting things out of your system. Putting things into words makes them more tangible and helps untangle rational thoughts from feelings and emotions. Put it down in a dairy, a blog or a scrapbook and feel yourself loosening up as your thoughts transfer from your mind to the paper.
- Exercise and Sleep are two of the best ways to act on both physical and mental strains. If there is one step you can take today to improve the rest of your life – just start getting regular, consistent sleep – around 8 hours a day – and see your life improving! And make sure you get some form of exercise 5 times a week. Even a simple walk in the park, a half an hour session in the gym, a basic yoga class or a dance class can help. Find what works for you and also keep switching things up in between. And don’t forget to indulge yourself as well – a spa, a massage, a cheat meal – these are all components of successful lifestyle plans and yours should not be any different!
- And this is probably my number 1 tip on this list – find yourselves a lifeboat! No I don’t mean going out to the sea and buying an actual boat. I mean find an activity that takes your mind away from the sinking feeling that engulfs you during periods of anxiety or depression. A lifeboat could be anything – a pet, a new hobby, a fitness goal, a TV show/character you are obsessed with – and can also change each time you encounter these feelings. Basically a lifeboat is something that distracts you from your current situation and helps you channel your energy into something meaningful. It also forces you into action, because sometimes when we are feeling low we can find it hard to snap out of our situation and take that first step towards positive changes. A lifeboat is just that – it helps you start somewhere, somehow – and the rest almost always follows! I have had many lifeboats over the past few years – this blog, perhaps is the most successful one!
- Last but not the least – get a mobile app that will help build a habit. I conform to the thought that the web is what you make of it (thank you Google Chrome for that line!). And one of the ways you can make the most of the internet and your constant connection to your phone is by having an app that pushes you into creating affirmations, staying positive, being more mindful, meditating, having a solid sleep routine or just being happy. Use Pinterest to create vision boards, or an app like Calm for better sleep. You can also try different affirmation apps that can reaffirm the positive things in your life.
Some other things that help and are worth a shot – embracing spirituality in some form (not necessarily in the form of religion), giving back to the society in whatever way is comfortable/possible for you, taking a short break to travel, de-cluttering your space and mind, trying minimalism or alternative lifestyles like this one, or doing small activities that de-stress you (and are not harmful for others!) like getting a haircut, shopping, eating ice-cream or painting your nails! Trouble thinking where to start? Explore this 31 Day Mental Wellness Challenge – not only does it list out 31 unique activities for 31 days so you can take one day at a time, but it also has a bunch of other resources around mental health and anxiety that can help you get started. Or try Jump Back July – a special calendar from the folks at Action For Happiness which gives activities that you can do during this “middle of the year month” to jump back into positivity.
Does this post make me sound like I have it all figured out? Because that is not true at all! I myself struggle from time to time with bouts of anxiety or feeling low, and know of loved ones who do as well. I honestly cannot admit that I have always been strong, kind and loving to myself or to others in such situations, but applying some (or all) of the above tips has always helped with a push in the right direction.
Your life is a blessing, and you should treat it like one. The other day I read this article which speaks about mental health with just the right perspective. It clearly states that talking about mental health is not thinking that something is wrong, but rather focusing on wellness and how we can all build habits and behaviors that help us lead our best lives. And that is the point of my article as well – stay positive, love yourselves, be kind and everything else will fall into place eventually.
I have always written about embracing a positive lifestyle on my blog and will continue to do so whenever I get the chance.
If you read this article and it helped you in any way, do leave a comment and spread the word by sharing it around!
Footnote: This is not a sponsored post. The idea for this post originated because the folks at Better Help reached out asking if I could write on the issue of mental health. I decided to take a call and do so without any paid commitments or advertising simply because this topic is close to my heart. While I have not asked for any monetary compensation for this post, they will be donating $50 on behalf of my website “Pumpernickel Pixie” to “Bring Change to Mind” – a community dedicated to ending the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness.