It's world mental health day and I want to share some of the things I do to try and keep a healthy mindset, be more positive and be happier in general.
Regardless of who you are, what age you are, what situation you are in, everyone has issues and that's just a fact.
Do not for one second think there are people out there roaming around completely free of insecurities, anxiety and toxic self-talk. In a way, it's comforting knowing you're not the only one out there going through some shit.
I remember distinctly being a young teenager, struggling and being told by older folk that 'you shouldn't be stressed, sure what problems could you have at that age?'
Never, ever underestimate other people's problems. It may not seem like a big deal for you but that could be someone else's entire world, crumbling within their own head.
Do you keep your mental health issues a secret? Are you worried that the world is going to judge you?
Do you struggle with negative self-talk that seems like it will never go away?
It's fair - there are a set of social rules we feel forced to comply with so you have to 'be this way or act that way' - otherwise, you don't fit in.
This is something I would have struggled with over the years but I have taken on some practices that help me. To help gather my thoughts, understand what is important and ultimately accept myself.
I'm not saying these are some magical tricks that are going to help overnight but these are practices I do regularly and I really notice the difference when I'm slacking. They might just work for you, too.
Just like a muscle, you have to work on your mental health constantly or it will become weak. Take time out of your day to work on yourself, you deserve it.
It sounds like a cliché but good god, I can not stress this enough. I really don't know where I would be if I kept things bottled up.
Unfortunately, we can get ourselves wound up more than anyone else can and for some reason, we don't want to talk about it.
If things get overwhelming you need to talk about it. At first, if you don't feel comfortable talking to someone you know, book an appointment to see a psychiatrist.
There are some pretty good initiatives in place like Jigsaw if you don't have the cash for it.
I started this way but luckily now, I found two or three people close to me that I know I can spill my brains out to. You'll be surprised who is there to listen to you.
If you have never done this, you'll be surprised how much it helps. but when you lay it all out there, things don't feel as heavy.
If you are really struggling, forget the rest of this list. This is number one, the first step and most important.
Something I thought I would never be into but it has pretty much changed my life.
Yes, sitting there concentrating on your breathing and just noticing feelings and thoughts.
A good friend of mine gifted me the Waking Up app by Sam Harris and I swear by it. Every night or morning I do this.
I find it hard to put into words how meditating works because I ain't no Buddha yet, but it helps me to be more present and not live completely in my head.
It helps me notice thoughts without judging myself. It helps me accept myself for who I am.
Meditating makes you realise that you are not your mind. You don't always have to listen to that voice in your head because more times than not, it's wrong. The mind is awfully strong and can keep attacking you.
This won't fix things overnight, it takes a lot of practice but it's worth it.
In terms of regularity, this is the top of my list.
It's just a fact that your thoughts are much easier to process when you have a clearer head from working out. We all know how good it feels to finish a workout, but for some reason, we forget all about that fresh feeling when it's time to go out again.
If you are physically able, exercise is not an option. As Blindboy put it, 'it's the best free medicine' you'll ever get.
It's not easy at the start, especially if you are in a bad place, but try to incorporate it into a regular routine. Try to get to a level where it is simply not acceptable to skip it.
Find something that works for you - gym, tennis, golf, pole dancing, yoga, rock climbing, swimming, walking - it really doesn't matter. Just get moving.
Other things I incorporate into my daily routine is a decent diet and sleep. Boy, do I love and need my sleep.
4. Surround Yourself With Decent People
Letting people go is not easy but it's really important.
I never thought too much about this until it started happening to me naturally. I realised I wasn't hanging around with the same people anymore and it was ultimately because they made me feel like shit.
If you can't do what you enjoy in life because of others putting you down, get out.
If it's someone you can't avoid, like a work colleague, take it at face value. Understand, they aren't your mate and try not to take things they say personally.
They might be going through some shit as well.
Again, something I thought I would never do and something I don't do as often as I should. It really works.
If there are things on your mind that are upsetting, take some time, head to a cafe with a notebook and write everything down.
Quite like talking to someone, you will have a better view of it when it's down on paper. Sometimes I need to do it a couple of times before a problem starts to dissolve, and sometimes it's just so strong that journaling doesn't work.
If that's the case revert to number one. If you notice this isn't working, you need to talk to someone.
6. Positive Self Talk
Yeah, this ain't easy but something that meditation has helped me with.
It happens to everyone but when I notice that my head is going in circles and turning on itself, I can shift gears thanks to meditation.
I can realise what's going on in the moment and change my mindset to correct the incorrect negative thoughts that are drowning me. I literally reply to that negative voice in my head with rational truths.
7. Accept Yourself
I can hear a lot of people say that if they could do this they wouldn't be struggling, and that's fair.
There are things we aren't going to like about ourselves, that's just life, but ignoring them and pushing them down is ultimately going to be way worse in the long term.
Figure out what's scaring you, what you are afraid of and work on it. Notice the thoughts that you are obsessing over and figure out what's true and what's not.
As I have already mentioned, sometimes when you let the scary thoughts in, they aren't as scary as we originally thought. In fact a lot of the time for me, they have led to absolutely nothing.
Everyone is different and you are unique in every way.
8. Stay present
Another aspect that meditation has helped me with.
We spend way too much of our time in our own heads thinking of shit we did in the past and shit that may happen in the future but most of the time we can't control either.
If you find yourself overthinking, try to place yourself in the room. Feel your feet on the floor, your arse on the chair and listen to the conversation that surrounds you. Like actually listen to it.
You won't even notice but all of a sudden you can find yourself in the room, present and not in your head.
I can't tell you how much all of these practices have helped me and there are a few other little things I do as well.
One of which is listening to Blindboys podcast where he covers a huge amount of mental health topics including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).
Another is self-help books like Chimp Paradox or The Power Of Now. Every self-help book will resonate at some level.
Things do get better and nothing lasts forever.
Do what you enjoy in life, be kind to yourself and be kind to others, folks, you've no idea what shit other people are going through.