If you read my last blog and have been wondering how to move along the mental health continuum from distress to peace, this is what you’ve been waiting for. Last time, I shared some ways to assess your mental health. This week, here are some simple concepts you can follow that will help you make positive changes if you are consistent. Think of these actions as a practice instead of something you try once. It won’t work that way. You need to develop new habits—mental habits. When you catch yourself feeling sad, mad or scared, observe the thoughts that are creating those emotions and change them. To be clear, I’m saying the concepts are simple—easy to understand. However, in the beginning, it will require your constant attention and discipline to replace old, harmful thoughts with new ones. It won’t be easy, but the effort pays off big time.
- When you find yourself feeling helpless, remember there is always a choice—even if you don’t like the choices you have. Remember that and make a new one.
- You are not a victim of your past. Despite any suffering or trauma you may have experienced, you are not locked into the victim role unless you choose it. You can focus on what you can do today to take your power back instead of focusing on the past, where you have zero power to change anything.
- Sometimes people have poor mental health because they take responsibility for the traumas in their life instead of placing it with the person who perpetrated the acts. No one deserves that. Even if you enjoyed the physical sensations or the feelings of being close to your perpetrator, as some people do, don’t take that responsibility. It was never your fault!
- On the opposite end, sometimes your mental health suffers when you refuse to take responsibility for the choices you have made and are making in your life. If you did it, you are responsible. Responsible is not the same as culpable. When you intend to cause a painful outcome for someone, you are culpable and responsible. However, sometimes you might do something that affects others in a way you didn’t anticipate. While responsible for that, you are not culpable, so can develop compassion and forgive yourself.
- Release the expectations you have of others. So often you experience a breach of trust when others don’t match your expectations of how they should act and be. No one can know the expectations you imagine of them. When you find yourself feeling disappointed in someone, instead of taking it personally, think about how you can trust everyone to do one thing—their best to get what they want in a particular moment, depending on the information available to them at the time. If you love someone, don’t you want them to have what they want, even if it doesn’t match what you want? Once you are aware of what a person wants, then you have the responsibility to choose the level of relationship you want to have with that person. Will you be all in, in with boundaries or out?
- Sometimes the way you think about things can cause depression, anger and anxiety. Monitor the language you use with other people and yourself. When you say things like, “I have to do this,” it’s quite disempowering. Try to remember the reason you do the things you think you don’t want to do. Once you remember your reason, you will never have to do anything again. You recognize you do everything because you want to, for the benefits doing it brings.
- Become the master of your own mind. Our brains are hardwired for negativity, which means that you will likely believe the most painful story you tell yourself. For example, when your partner is late for dinner, you might begin to think they had an accident or are with someone else. Those painful stories lead to painful emotions. It’s possible these things could be true, but until you have evidence, exchange the painful thoughts with a more reasonable explanation, like he’s sharing small talk with an old friend at the gas station.
- Understand the two purposes of painful emotions. Embrace one and denounce the other. The one to embrace is that our painful emotions serve as a signal that you aren’t getting what you want. This is important because it can spur you into action to change things. However, when you hold onto those painful emotions, it means you are using them to get what you want—usually unbeknownst to you. You may be using them to manipulate the people in your life to get them to change so you can have more of what you want. Once you recognize this, you can choose something less manipulative to get what you want. You always want to make choices that lead you toward becoming the person you want to be.
- When you experience painful situations—and you will, everyone does—you don’t have to live in that pain unless you want to. You may experience loss, trauma, illness or any other painful situation. But when you are ready, you can begin to search for the GLOW—the gifts, lessons, opportunities and wisdom in that situation because there is always balance in life. In each experience, there is an equal amount of pain and GLOW. The challenge is our hardwiring for negativity. Once you know there is GLOW, you can begin looking for the various aspects of it until you have achieved balance. When you do, you will no longer be held hostage by the pain. You can be free.
I call this process Mental Freedom® and am happy to share it with you. You can listen to my podcast about it, featuring a great offer to learn it if you listen to the end. People who have taken it report a significant improvement in their Mental Freedom.