30 Apr Mental Gains- 5 Tools To Improve Your Mental Health
Positive affirmations won’t improve your mental health. It takes a lot more work than that.
In order to improve your mental health, you need to follow the same principles as you would to improve your physical health.
You have to consistently do certain things to change it from a poor state to a strong one. And you need to continue doing these things in some form, in order to maintain it.
People always tell me I seem like such a happy person.
And for the most part I am a positive and “happy” person.
Happiness and joy are not the same thing though. Happiness can be faked. Joy comes from within and can’t be faked.
Truth is, it’s a long time since I’ve felt the kind of joy for life that I feel now.
Mental illness is something I’ve experienced first hand; I know how important it is to improve your mental health.
As I work with more and more coaching clients, I realise how many of you haven’t achieved your goals because of poor mental health. Often you don’t even realise how much it’s holding you back.
In this article, I want to share 5 daily practises, or tools I guess, that have significantly improved my mental health as well as my coaching client’s (yes I speak with my clients on a daily basis so we discuss things that come up including mental health).
Don’t worry, you won’t see positive affirmations on the list.
I hope by sharing these tools, they’ll help you improve your mental health too.
Disclaimer: You have to remember, improving your mental health is the same as improving your physical health. You won’t make improvements if you do these things half-assed or if you aren’t consistent with them.
5 Tools To Improve Your Mental Health
TOOL #1: Listen To Your Thoughts
You know those little voices you get in your head? The ones that are always chatting away. They say things like:
- ‘you can’t do that’
- ‘what if it doesn’t work’
- ‘you’re not good enough’
They play out past and future situations in your head to make you feel all sorts of emotions…
You have to learn how to control these voices so they don’t control you.
That’s why I like to tackle them first thing in the morning.
I go for a walk, before I do anything else. I don’t even have coffee or check my phone. While I’m walking I don’t listen to music or podcasts or audiobooks.
I listen to my thoughts.
The Zen masters say you have two minds- your thinking mind and your observing mind.
Your observing mind allows you to experience your thoughts.
Negative thoughts will always pop up at some point (no matter how perfect your life is). You can’t control them but you can control how you relate to them.
When you start to listen to your thoughts you’ll find that the certain ones pop up more frequently than others. You can go as far as to give different names to those voices that are most repetitive in your head.
Attaching a separate identity to them helps reinforce the fact that you are not your thoughts. Those thoughts that don’t help you, are simply thoughts that elicit negative feelings.
When you separate yourself from them, it’s impossible to be them. Instead of saying ‘I’m anxious’, you have to say ‘Anxious Anna is coming out and making me feel all anxious right now’ (for example). You can change how you relate to the emotion because you are not the emotion.
Separation from your thinking mind allows you to detach from those thoughts and feelings that don’t serve you. You can then choose to silence them instead of letting them get louder and take over your day.
If you think this sounds silly… calling the voices in your head names like ‘Anxious Anna’, try it before you judge. You’ll probably see how silly the things those voices are saying actually are.
TOOL #2: Switch The Light On
I like to pretend I have a light switch inside me that is always on.
Life happens and sometimes I’ll get one of those negative voices appear in my thinking mind that switches the light off.
It’s ok to sit in the darkness for a bit, with that thought, to allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling.
Rather than staying in the dark all day, you have to learn to switch the light back on.
I know you’re probably thinking it’s not that simple. When you’re sad or angry or hurt or jealous, it’s very hard to do what you know you should do.
Remember, you are not your thoughts.
You can silence them and then choose to listen to thoughts that will help you.
So how do you switch that light back on?
All you really need to do is change your focus. Gratitude is great for that.
Change your focus from everything going wrong, or how bad you’re feeling, to one thing you can be grateful for in that moment.
There is always one thing you can be grateful for. Usually there are several things. List as many as you want in your head. Write them down if you prefer.
Gratitude helps to put things into perspective. It will leave you feeling better. Maybe not amazing, but at least good enough to continue moving forward.
The faster you can learn to switch the light back on by focusing on gratitude, the greater the improvements you’ll see in your mental health.
TOOL #3: Learn Who You Are
Knowing yourself is powerful.
That’s why I love journalling.
I used to think journalling was lame.
I tried to do it for years and couldn’t get into it on a consistent basis. It was hard to know what to write and it seemed like a waste of time.
The key with journaling is to have prompts but no pressure.
Clarity comes when you stop searching for it.
You don’t have to know what to write about. All you need is a desire to dig deep and learn more about who you are.
You might think you already know yourself. But unless you’ve been to therapy or done some kind of work on yourself, you probably have no idea.
We’re not taught to question why we react in certain ways, why we believe certain things or what past experiences are still haunting us now.
That’s what journalling has helped, and is still helping me, to uncover.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
Everything that happens to you when you’re young, shapes the person who you are today. You’re conditioned to believe certain things, about life and yourself. But those beliefs are just that. They aren’t necessarily true.
There is power in uncovering what beliefs are not true and changing them into new ones. This requires a lot of peeling back of those superficial layers to uncover who you truly are inside.
You can achieve this in various ways; I like to do it through journalling.
It might be hard to start, but once you warm up you won’t be able to stop.
Give yourself at least an hour so you have that time to warm up. Don’t stop after 10 minutes- you need to keep going.
Ask yourself the hard questions. Analyse your behaviours, your reactions, your fears, your desires.
You are the most interesting book you’ll ever read, you just have to be willing to.
TOOL #4: Play Hard Games
Each day is a game.
To play, you need to make a challenge for yourself and a reward.
If you complete the challenge, you get the reward the next day.
That way, you always have something to look forward to. Having to wait until the next day for your reward will also train you to be more patient.
Patience will help you in so many aspects of your life. Plus, delayed gratification is so much more fulfilling than what instant rewards are.
The challenge can be something you don’t want to do but will be good for you, or something you’re scared to do.
Doing what’s hard, and pushing yourself beyond what you think is possible, will have a better outcome that doing what’s easy. It will leave you feeling accomplished which is a reward in itself.
This game will improve your mental health by making it stronger each day. The more you do hard things, the easier it becomes to tackle any challenging situation.
TOOL #5: Learn To Let Go
Anxiety comes from wanting to control the outcome.
You’re effectively living in the future, instead of living in the present moment.
Disappointment, anger, frustration, sadness- this is how you’ll end up feeling when you attach to an outcome and it doesn’t go the way you want it to.
If you’re not attached, but are just present, you’ll experience these negative emotions far less.
There are so many benefits that come when you let go of the outcome.
When you let go, but keep working towards your vision, you’ll often achieve even more than you ever expected.
Attaching to an outcome that you think you want or that you think you deserve, limits you.
I often see this happen with clients who think they need to weigh a certain weight in order to look a certain way. The attachment to the number on the scale keeps them from doing what is required to get the body they actually desire.
You don’t know what you don’t know. That’s why you have to detach from the outcome and leave room for even better things to come in.
You can apply this to any situation in your life.
Letting go also takes the pressure off. Creativity and other good things come from space, not from being suffocated by the pressure you put on yourself to have a certain outcome by a certain time.
Whether you’re an artist or a corporate employee, being creative feels good and will help improve your mental health. I believe all of us were born to create in some way.
Creativity aside, there is a sense of peace that comes from letting go.
Life is meant to be magical. Let go and you’ll watch your life unfold in the most amazing ways – so long as you’re working towards something.
These tools will help you improve your mental health, but you have to be consistent. You won’t see changes overnight, and you’ll still have hard days.
It’s normal and ok to have negative thoughts sometimes. What’s not ok, is letting these stop you from taking the actions you need to achieve your goals.
A positive mindset is a perspective. You can learn to see anything in a good or bad light. No matter where you’re at right now, you can improve your mental health. It might take years, but the feeling of joy you’ll experience when your mental health is in a good place, is worth all the effort.
If you have any questions about fitness, nutrition, mindset and your specific goals, I’m alway happy to help answer them.
You can contact me here.