Top 10 Ways to Upgrade Your Mental Health
This is Mental Health Awareness Month, which makes it a perfect time to discuss ways to upgrade your mental health. Mental health is a combination of emotional, psychological and social well-being which affects how we think, feel and behave. Please don’t confuse mental health with mental illness. According to the Mayo Clinic: Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.
I’m actually relieved we have an entire month dedicated to something so important in each of our lives. I’ve been watching, listening, supporting and coaching so many brave individuals as they deal with incredible stress, shame, failing businesses and relationships, families in turmoil, plates overflowing, overwhelm, fatigue and despair. People all around us are dealing with various mental health issues ranging from anxiety, panic attacks, post-partum depression, PTSD to thoughts of suicide.
The people who are suffering are not strangers. These are your sisters, brothers, parents, friends, neighbors, colleagues. These are people sitting next to you on the bus or in a company meeting. These are famous people and not so famous people. It’s me and perhaps it’s you.
I don’t believe there is a person alive who has escaped deep challenges and obstacles that take a toll on our mental health in one form or another. If you are living life, you are facing challenges – it’s how we grow.
While we each have our unique life obstacles, we have a deep, common bind in facing down our challenges and getting the help we need in whatever form it takes.
Vulnerability is a key
I’ll let you in on a little secret – your vulnerable side is what genuinely connects you to people. It’s what allows us to be real and free. It’s what people relate to and it’s a massive contributor to positive mental health.
Let’s be honest. In each of our crazy worlds, we recognize the more perfect something looks, the less likely it’s real. We don’t really trust it. We sense it even if we don’t understand it. But when we see real, raw, and vulnerable – we can relate. We see ourselves in it and we receive permission to be real in return.
Tools to upgrade your mental health
I’ve spent a lifetime navigating fear and living with a constant thread of anxiety in my daily life. I started with ulcers in high school and had to take medicine to control it. While it helped the pain and symptoms, it didn’t address the root cause or give me a healthy coping mechanism.
Over the years, I’ve learned how to create healthy, holistic lifestyle choices to help me navigate these incessant companions and continually upgrade my mental health. Here are some of my top tools:
Fitness is a top priority for me. I started running to unwind from the stress in college and over the years I’ve continued to find fitness routines that support me. Any time I deviate from my fitness routine, I suffer. Period. I’ve committed to engage in activities I enjoy so I’m more inclined to do them. Physical fitness is integrally tied to my body, mind and spirit wellness and keeps me grounded in my inner power. It builds strength and endurance to deal with life more effectively which upgrades my mental health in the process.
I make sure I get in nature every single day. There’s nothing better than connecting to Mother Nature and being grateful for my connection to her. I love starting the morning with my bare feet in the grass and giving thanks for the new day.
One of my favorite activities is running mountain trails, which I’ve been doing for 32 years. My trails keep me fit AND connected to Mother Nature. I’ve solved more problems and have had more inspired ideas while running on mountain trails than… well … anything else.
You are only as good as the fuel that powers you and maintains you over the long haul. Do the best you can and seek to do better to fill yourself with the best fuel possible. I try to keep my diet as clean, and I have no problem indulging in treats (dark chocolate!!!) as long as I staying committed to whole foods and exercise.
We have our deepest connection to life and the answers we seek within ourselves which we access by meditation. We need only get quiet and go within to receive. Yet we have so much resistance to unplugging and getting quiet. We’re afraid. We are addicted to technology, which keeps us separate from the human connection that we crave.
Unplug from your technology and plug into yourself for a couple minutes each day. Let go, unwind, stop thinking, shut your eyes, breathe deeply and simply be. Practice every day for a few moments and notice the calm, centering space you can create. For added bonus, breath deeply into your belly and slowly exhale. Breath is a centering force and can reduce panic, as well as the fight and flight response.
Find something to be grateful for every single day. It could be the smallest thing if it’s a particularly tough day, but there is always something be be grateful for: the color of the sunset, the feel of the blades of grass beneath your feet, the smile of a child, the roof over your head, the ability to walk, see, smell, touch…. Gratitude shifts our perspective and creates an opening within us to experience life at a deeper level. It’s also shifts your emotional state. Ever notice it’s hard to feel miserable when your grateful?!
Your words have power. How are you speaking to yourself? Are you kind or are you filled with judgment? Do you speak with optimism or pessimism? Choose your words carefully because they are a magnet – you receive exactly what you put out there. Talk words of empowerment and possibility. Speak with generosity, compassion and empathy. Monitor your words for a week and listen to what you are saying. Catch yourself and replace your vocabulary with words you desire to live into for yourself and others.
Create an empowered mindset
Our thoughts create our beliefs which create our actions. If you want a certain quality of life, you have to start with the same quality mindset to create it.
All of your life begins with what you think.
If you look at your life right now, it will show you exactly what you think about. Do you like what you see? Is it time for an upgrade?
You have the power to choose your thoughts.
It takes effort to change ingrained patterns of thinking, just like it takes effort to build a defined muscle when you begin to lift weights. You don’t build a lean muscle overnight – you commit yourself every day and over time, you develop it.
It’s the same thing with your mind. It takes daily application to upgrade what you think. Start listening in to that inner dialogue. Then make some changes.
Notice the negative mind chatter and stop it in its tracks. Replace it with a better thought. Move yourself from expecting the worst to expecting good things to expecting the best.
Noodle on this: Worry is only negative imagination – you are imagining bad things are going to happen.
In most situations, it rarely happens; yet in others, you are causing it to happen because you are putting so much energy and determination into creating it (remember the magnet I described above).
Imagine if you stopped expecting the negative and started expecting, and speaking about, delight, joy, desirable outcomes, good surprises, and miracles? I mean really – what do you have to lose? At the very least, you’ll feel better while testing it and have the added benefit of an upgrade to your mental health in the process!
The number one key to my mental fitness is my close circle of friends. I have extraordinary friendships and I reach out to them every single day. I’ve cultivated these relationships over the years and they are my most precious and treasured resource and I treat them accordingly.
Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Those individuals you can be totally raw, vulnerable, broken and messy with and they will love you with open arms and hold you through it. Friends who will keep you accountable as they support you. They will comfort you, but won’t let you be a victim. They’ll hold you up when you can’t hold yourself up. They will love you unconditionally. They’ll remind you of your greatness and who you are in this world when you can’t remember or access it yourself. They’ll carry you on their backs until you can once again stand and walk in your power.
Take a look at the people in your life. Are they lifting you up or bringing you down? Do they support you or criticize you? Do they encourage you and believe in you or do they tell you why you can’t achieve your dreams and goals? Eliminate the trouble makers: don’t let people hold you back and keep you down.
Additional Resources to Upgrade Your Mental Health
I still have anxiety and fear, but now I have the tools to navigate them when they show up. I’m constantly on the look out for new tools to support my mental health and upgrade it on a regular basis.
While I shared some of the tools that work for me, please explore and find ones that work for you. Please do not suffer in silence. Reach out for support. There are so many resources available to help.
Here’s a link to extensive list of mental health resources with links to each resource: Mental Health Resources.
Reach out to me and I’ll help you find resources.
Please know you are not alone. You are loved. People care. I care. And I have a tribe of amazing people who care deeply and want to make a difference.
Love yourself. Love your family. Love your friends. Love your community.
Look each other in the eye and genuinely see the person in front of you. Give them a smile and an energetic hug or a real one.
Your life matters.
You were meant to thrive.
p.s. If you have a great tool that works for you, please share in the comments below.
p.p.s. I’m going to be expanding on these tools and more on my Joan Jakel’s Facebook page, so join me, get involved, enjoy my tribe and be part of it as you create and expand yours!
p.p.p.s. If you are looking for inspiration in the form of art, my collage prints are filled with empowering words, phrases, and images to help you upgrade your mental health. You can check them out in my Etsy Shop.