Most of us have a rough idea how much exercise or activity we need to do each day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The NHS recommend 60 minutes per day and 3 of these days it should be “vigorous”, getting sweaty … but most experts would let you away with with 30 minutes per day 5 times a week.
It’s the same with food, most of us know the 5 fruit and veg a day rule that we “should” be eating to keep our body healthy, though it;s pretty hard to stick to at times.
With that though in mind, that most people know “roughly” what it takes to keep your body healthy, now can we talk about how to keep your mind healthy as well. Based on the current epidemic of Mental Healthy issues I think it’s safe to say that not many of us are quite as clued up on how to keep our minds healthy and happy. I’ve researched this for the last 7 years and have learned some useful tools and techniques, daily habits and useful information that might just help you strengthen your mental health, prevent you from slumping any lower or even help you build up your confidence and develop a positive mindset.
I know most schools share some information on creating a happy, healthy mind but I’m hoping today I can build on that and leave you all with some life skills and tools that you can turn to if times ever did happen to get a little tough.
Happiness : Taking Responsibility
We all get used to our parents doing so much for us, like taking you to your hobby (football, dance class, swimming etc), buying you what you like or making sure you get something you like to eat … but by trying so hard to be good parents and doing SOOOO much for you some parents are actually teaching you all that happiness is done FOR you … instead of something you can DO for yourself.
It is so easy to become so used to your parents doing everything for you that when you grow up or you’re out on your own you expect other people to do the same. I need you guys to know that you … and only YOU, are responsible for your OWN happiness. Nobody else is going to look after this for you every day in every situation. Only you can do that. YOU are in charge.
Unless you learn this lesson now you will grow up expecting your friends, teachers, people you end up working with or for, your coaches, managers, everybody you meet … to continue this theme of doing things to make YOU happy.
The world unfortunately doesn’t work this way but when you learn that you have the power to do it for yourself the whole game changes anyway.
It makes you free to do the things that YOU like to do, spend time with the people that make YOU smile, watch shows that YOU want to watch, and enjoy the things in life that make YOU happy.
You have the power to choose the majority of the environments you spend time in. Let’s take friends for example – you can pick the friends you meet up with, have lunch with and spend time with … so make sure they are supportive friends, the ones that you have fun with, the ones that encourage you and make you laugh. Not the ones that put you down or make you feel bad.
You also have a say in what clubs or hobbies you get involved in so make sure you voice your opinion if you are not enjoying the ones you go to. There is always something else you could try.
You don’t need to spend time at a football team if some of the other players or coaches are destroying your confidence every time you go there. Be brave enough to say, talk to your parents, or your friends or even your teacher if you don’t feel you can to say to your parents.
There is ALWAYS an option! You don’t need to stay in negative situations. Speak up or change the situation. You are in charge of your own happiness and well-being.
Your Secret Power : Programming Your Mind
I’m not going to go into this in detail but here’s just a very quick overview of how your mind works.
Your mind has 2 parts – the first part that you are using right now is called the conscious mind. You use that for thinking, reasoning, deciding stuff and the general thoughts you are having … even the ones right this second.
The other part is your subconscious – this is the back part of your brain. It acts like a computer, it takes everything you show it and share with it as a fact. It doesn’t question it, it just saves it in and then makes you feel and act according to the information it has received.
Your subconscious is your autopilot and takes care of so many things that you take for granted like co-ordination, breathing, healing your body and so much more.
Who here knows how to ride a bike? Can you remember the first time you tried? Your subconscious didn’t know how, you wobbled a bit, maybe fell over. It took a bit of time as you had to train that computer part of your brain … and now that it knows you can jump on and away you go, no issues.
Playing the guitar and other skills all work the same. The more you practice the more you are programming these skills in so they become automatic … as long as you pass controls to your subconscious when you need to.
Like can you imagine you have a guitar playing test and you have a million people watching you, would you start over thinking? Many would, this is passing controls back to the Conscious mind – the thinking part and all of a sudden you get a mind blank, it can feel like you’ve never even held a guitar before let a long played one. You panic and overthink, this makes the thinking part take control when in fact, if you’d relaxed, the subconscious would’ve handled most of it if you’d let it.
As well as managing those sort of expected skills and normal day to day things like breathing, walking, co-ordination it does loads of other things … some that directly impact the way you feel and the way you see life.
What you feed into your mind (this subconscious / autopilot part) – the self-talk, the things you think in your head, the things other people say to you, the places you spend time every day, what you expect of yourself, what you watch on TV, what you look at on the Internet … all of these things determine how you feel about yourself, how you view the world and how you approach every situation.
You might say over and over how bad you are at a sport or how slow you are at learning new things or that you have a bad memory, if you do this often enough your subconscious mind will program that in as fact … so it is critical that you feed in the right things.
If you continually choose to spend time with friends that make them feel worthless or play for a team where the coach continually puts you down, you are actively choosing to harm your own self-worth / self-image every time you see these people.
You may have parents / teachers / family / classmates or teammates that put you down or say bad things about you but what you MUST know is that what these other people say or think does NOT determine who you are. All these things don’t dictate the amazing person you are inside or what you are capable of.
You also need to watch how you talk about your life because what you focus on is what you will find more of. Your subconscious takes whatever you focus on as you “setting your priority” and it looks for more of the same in every situation so you have to really understand that if you were to spend all your time complaining about things or finding flaws in others that your subconscious mind will prioritise all these negatives things and help you find more.
Instead you should be focusing on the wonderful things all around you, the good qualities of yourself or others, the amazing things in your life, how fortunate you really are, the good things in every situation instead of the bad … and when you do this your subconscious mind will actively search out more of the same.
There is just too much going on in the world for any of us to pick up on absolutely everything … so whatever you choose to spend your time focusing, this is actually setting the default setting for your subconscious mind to find more of.
So please talk to yourself in your mind as you would to the person you love most in the world. Have confident, supportive and encouraging self-talk. Tell yourself you are smart, that you are confident, that you are worthwhile and see how much better that makes you feel about yourself.
Empathy : Understanding Others
Empathy is something everybody needs to understand. This is the skill to see any situation from the other person’s point of view. Trying to understand why they act a certain way or do a certain thing.
Empathy is the understanding that even when someone is treating you unfairly that person’s bad behaviour actually has nothing to do with you. If someone is being mean, rude or nasty to you it means that this person MUST have their own issues or insecurities.
Let me be even clearer about this – Normal, happy people don’t go around tearing other people down. Something is causing this behaviour … and it’s not you. The person may be having a bad day, bad week or even bad year … and they’re coping mechanism is to take it out on you or anybody else around them.
I can promise you that nobody wants to go around being angry and unhappy, even worse if it’s all the time … but sometimes people just are due to their own circumstances. These people can be pretty miserable and they want to make everyone else feel as bad as they do.
It might only be for that moment when they are feeling bad or it might be that they feel low all the time so make a hobby of picking on others to pull them down as well.
You just need to remember that just because one person or even a nasty group, say at one angry moment or very often, that you are not cool or smart or pretty … that doesn’t make it true. That doesn’t mean the rest of the world believe that.
A throw away comment by one or two angry, miserable people does not determine who you are. If they are being mean to you this is their issue, not yours. Don’t let them pass their insecurities on to you. Please remember this.
Instead feel sorry for them, even try to understand why they act so badly. Have a think what might cause them to feel so bad they feel they have to act out like that and pity them. Don’t let them pass their issues on to you.
Enjoyment : Embracing Your Creativity
In the past it was always encouraged to follow the norm, stick to what everyone else does, and follow the masses! You don’t have to do this, be you. Do what YOU enjoy, what YOU are good at, what makes you feel alive!
Understand and appreciate that we are all different from EVERYBODY else, and that this is very much a GOOD thing, not a bad thing! You are free to do what makes you feel amazing, what gives you your power so please be brave enough to not just follow others but entirely embrace your own special uniqueness and do what you love, not just what everyone else is doing.
Not everyone is going to be good at one specific thing … that is okay! You may not be natural at that ONE thing that other people are but that’s just fine. There are a million other things out there that you WILL be good at. Go find what YOU can do well … instead of being caught up on what other people are doing.
Find out what you enjoy and what you are good at, and embrace THAT! You have the freedom to be who you want to be so stop judging yourself by other people’s standards and start being proud of the strengths you do have.
Feelings : Your Own Navigational System
You may not quite realise this but your feelings, when you feel good, bad, excited, nervous … these are your very own personal navigational system for life. If you are spending too much time feeling bad, mad, frustrated … something isn’t quite right in your life.
Listen to what your feelings are telling you and adjust your life accordingly. It could be your friends, your hobby, what you are spending your time doing, what you are focusing on, or any part of your life. Realise if you are not feeling happy on a regular basis then something isn’t working, you have the power to address it.
If you are spending all your time focusing on the bad things in life you will feel bad, absolutely no doubt about this. Your feelings are telling you to stop complaining or thinking about the bad stuff and to look at what you have that makes you lucky instead.
We are made to be happy, it is our natural state. If any of you have drifted away from what matters or are focusing on the wrong things, the way you are feeling is an alert to tell you that something needs to change.
If you are feeling bad it is not just that you are feeling bad, it is a warning signal! Listen out for these warning signals and take appropriate action to turn things around. You can learn from your feelings and tweak things in your life until the bad feelings fade away.
Focus Matters : Gratitude and all things Good
Most importantly, you NEED to practice gratitude. Saying thank you for everything you have, counting the good in your life instead of dwelling on the bad stuff.
If you constantly focus on what you don’t have (what others might have that you don’t?), you will always be miserable. You will always be chasing “something” … and if you do ever get that ONE thing it will never be enough. There will ALWAYS be something else that you DON’T have. You need to appreciate what you have now, find the good in your life, in others, in any situation and be thankful for those things.
You need to stop comparing yourself with others, this is bad habit and the more you do it the more frustrated and unhappy you will be. You will always find someone, somewhere that has more than you. Without gratitude for what you already have you will always be comparing yourself with that one person that has more than you … and no time comparing your life to the 10 people that you have more than. This means you can get stuck chasing more and no matter what you get, you will always want the next thing.
Try to say thank you daily for what you already have, think about all the things you have that make you lucky. What makes you special? What good things have happened in your life? Realise just how great your life really is! Talk to others about how lucky they are as well to remind them.
If you can’t thank the universe, life, God, or your parents you can always thank yourself for what you have or what you have already achieved. Thank yourself for having the strength to do what you have done so far or the courage to get through any tough times you’ve had.
There is always something to be thankful for, even if it is just your health, or that you woke up this morning, or that you live in a country with so many opportunities … or even the running water in your tap. You are so very lucky, you might just need some basic new habits to help realise that.
Your teachers, your coaches, your parents … can only teach you so much … you might need to pick up these critical life skills yourself and I have the tools to help you do that.
Learn these skills and daily habits now so you can be strong, brave, happy and confident for the rest of your life. Hopefully you now have an understanding of the importance of caring for yourself and valuing your own opinion even higher than they value others.
Do you realise now you have the strength and understanding to know that if other people don’t agree with your opinion it is not the end of the world? That is just the other person’s choice. If others don’t agree it doesn’t make your opinion wrong or worthless.
Learn these skills now or with more of my help and you will be able to:
- Manage your own moods / happiness levels better
- Have a better understanding of the importance of who you spend time with and how you talk about yourself
- Be better placed to deal with bullies or other negative forces
- Have a higher confidence to express yourself freely
- Start noticing so much more good values in other people, the good in each situation and all the good things that are all around us
- Develop a self-worth and resilience that is harder to break down
- Appreciate all the amazing things already in your life