Meditation is not about relaxing the mind but rather focusing on how to control and select your thoughts. Just as we need to apply effort to stay physically fit, keeping mentally 'in shape' is also something we need to work on. The best place to start can be meditation. The practice of meditation provides us with a deep sense of inner peace, and resilience, improving one's ability to weather life's inevitable storms, enhanced concentration, a more outward-looking panoramic perspective and provides greater calm in our dealings with others.
If meditation is about focusing on ‘nothing’ to clear the mind, then mindfulness is about the ability to hone your thoughts and awareness in on ‘something’. Mindfulness is holding your attention in the present moment with openness, curiosity and without judgement. By practicing mindfulness, it has been shown to reduce worries, anxiety and distress; create a sense of calm; learn how to relax and regulate emotions; improve concentration and increased productivity; develop a sense of empathy and connectedness; and enjoy better health and sleep which contributes to better mental health balance.
Rest and relaxation are just as important for the mind as they are for our physical bodies. When we allow our brain to completely relax, we help neurons and pathways re-connect and process our thoughts and experiences. A busy mind is not necessarily one that is activating its full potential.
The simple act of gratitude can change your whole day or life! When you wake up every morning think about what you already have, not what you are longing for. It's great to have goals, but by simply appreciating the abundance of gifts, talents, people in your life you care about and any other opportunities can re-shape your focus, intent and energy for the day. Journaling is a good way to harness our gratitude at the end of a day or to begin it.
Positivity & affirmations
Keeping a positive mindset can be very powerful for framing our peace of mind and perceptions of the world around us, our interactions with others and how we experience life. Daily affirmations can help you achieve your goals, believe in yourself and face your fears to tackle new challenges. Who knows what's around the corner when you are armed with genuine confidence and a happy-go-lucky attitude.
Understanding the impacts of trauma
Processing toxic stress and complex trauma takes extra conscious effort and support – but you can begin to heal. Never under estimate the impact a traumatic event or series of traumatic experiences has on our mental health, mind set, behaviours and thought processes. There has never been as much research and understanding of trauma-informed care and practice as there is now, and the good news is there are many services and strategies we can adopt to take control back of our minds and lives after the impacts of trauma.
Counselling, therapy & talking to trusted people
If you're someone who likes to talk over matters and life's troubles to process them, then make sure you have people around you who are free to listen when you need. Sometimes, talking to loved and trusted family members and/or friends is enough; other times you may need the help of a qualified counsellor or psychologist to unpack more deeper issues – or if your loved ones don't feel capable of holding that emotional weight or space at the time. There is nothing to be ashamed about in accessing a professional to talk through your challenges – it could be one of the best things that ever happens for you, setting you on a path empowered with new coping strategies and skills.
Goal setting & wellness
Have you ever completed a wellness wheel of wellbeing? It can really help frame up your priorities, plans and achievements. Setting goals in all areas of your life do not need to be record-breaking, competitive or daunting. It's just about making a little progress as and when you can, in a direction that is meaningful and beneficial to you and your life. This sense of accomplishment, growth and fulfilment will all contribute to better mental health and wellbeing.
Do you notice when your temper is rising? Or when anxious feelings in your body start to muster? Being in tune with our emotions, reactions and triggers is the first step in understanding ourselves better and improving our communication and relationships with others; and taking hold of our direction and choices. It's normal and healthy to feel a range of emotions – while we ideally strive for joy and contentment, we're going to experience some bouts of anger, sadness or fear along the way which all serve their function. Sometimes emotions feel overwhelming and outside our control depending what we've experienced in life, or those periods of sadness and fear hang around much longer than they should. Practice being self-aware and recognise when these feelings are effecting day-to-day tasks, your work or your relationships. If you struggle with this, you may need to seek the right support or services to guide you though managing them.
Connection & belonging
Humans were biologically designed to connect and belong for survival. One of the leading causes of depression and suicide is lacking a sense of belonging either in a family or friendship group, or a community and/or workplace setting. No one likes to feel left out – we learn that from a young age! The key is to find 'your tribe' or the people that resonate with your values, are supportive of your goals and make you feel good about yourself. A good way to start finding people with similar interests to you is by joining a local community activity, sport or club. Being a good friend works both ways – so make quality time to nurture the connection and be there for each other when it counts.
Solitude & silence
On the flipside of all this social interaction is an essential part to our wellbeing – and that is quiet, alone time to reflect, relax and rest. Whether you're an introvert (recharges alone or in quieter, small group) or an extrovert (recharges in larger, louder social settings), you will be able to determine the optimal levels of how much interaction with people you require, and when and how much solitude and silence serves you best. These ratios may evolve and change during different chapters of your life. The extremity of cutting yourself off from others too much can lead to loneliness which is a factor for poorer mental health outcomes. By comparison, if you are always trying to please everyone and make every social outing, you might start to feel boundaries being eroded and burning out from the sense of obligation, which can also affect your mental wellbeing and rob you of time to pursue your own personal goals and growth. The key is self-awareness and balance – master this and you can tackle almost anything!
Self-awareness & understanding: temperament & personality styles
No matter what and where we go in life, we are going to encounter people. Interacting, understanding and communicating with others can be the difference between gaining the outcome you want, getting your needs met, helping others and creating collaborative, comprising environments to operate within. Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses, preferred (and dominant) ways of communicating and operating, and that of others, allows us to meet half-way. Diverse traits are necessary for society, business and life to operate. Every role, personality type and skill set have a part to play. Don’t let the delivery of how you convey something undermine the message you want heard. It can undermine your own mental health and others if people feel unheard, invalidated or misunderstood. This tension left to fester, and can affect relationships. And we all know how a sense of connection, belonging and feeling understood is important for our wellbeing. However, if people are abusive or toxic, know your boundaries and worth - even understanding some behaviours doesn't mean you need to tolerate it.