How to maintain a healthy mind.
In these unprecedented times, improving and maintaining your mental health should be a priority. As Lockdown progresses, you may start to develop negative thinking patterns as you find yourself becoming more and more tired and frustrated. These negative thinking patterns tend to cause conditions like anxiety and depression to worsen, which means that recognising and preventing negative thoughts is critical to sustaining a healthy mind.
There are a few strategies you can implement to identify your triggers and help you train your brain to maintain positivity.
Are you having negative thoughts?
Identifying negative thoughts can be tricky – but realising that specific thoughts are harmful or unhealthy is the first step to changing them. Thoughts that consistently lower your self-esteem or cause you to doubt your worth aren’t healthy – especially if you find your mind replaying them several times a day, creating a pattern of negative thinking.
Here are some patterns you should look out for:
- Personalisation: Believing that you are the cause of adverse situations.
- Magnification: Exaggerating situations in your mind until they seem helpless.
- Overgeneralisation: Designating the feelings of previous negative experiences to all similar experiences.
- Emotional Reasoning: Making decisions and assumptions based on your feelings at the moment, rather than the facts.
- Black-and-White Thinking: Your thinking jumps from one extreme to the next, with no middle ground.
How to stay positive:
Retraining your mind to avoid these negative thought traps isn’t too difficult, as long as you are consistent in your training. Try to implement one of the following strategies every day, and document your positive and negative thoughts to see how you’re improving.
Repeating affirmation statements helps to steer your mind away from negative thoughts. Your mantra could be a phrase that motivates and encourages you and repeating it consistently when you’re experiencing negative thoughts will help you feel better. It especially helps if you believe what you’re saying.
Keeping a scrapbook of all of the positive thoughts, happy memories, and overall positive aspects of your life can become a great mood booster in times of stress and anxiety. Bring it out when you’re feeling down, and it’ll help break you out of a negative thinking pattern.
A recent study concluded that performing acts of kindness improves your overall mood and mental state. It also improves your self-esteem and makes you feel more valuable. Contributing to positive change in your community will help you create a positive difference in your mind.
Colours, textures and the ambience of spaces all affect your mental state. If you’re in an area that’s dark and gloomy, you’ll find yourself drifting to that mind space more frequently. Add a little bit of colour to your environment, move some furniture and find ornamental items to inspire you.
Create a Routine:
Structuring your days to include self-care activities and positive changes will help to keep you on track. Find a way to add time for things you’ve always wanted to do – like learning a new language or taking up a new hobby. The internet has millions of online classes and guides to help you learn.
Check-in with yourself
Monitoring and revising is key to the success of any ongoing project, so creating a system to be able to check-in with yourself is vital to developing a long-term change in your mental wellbeing.
Journaling is a powerful method of keeping track of your mental wellbeing.
Start by making a note of any negative thoughts you have and jotting down the causes, effects and strategies you implemented to stop them. As you progress, you’ll start identifying patterns in your thinking, and you’ll be able to act proactively to stop negative thoughts.
You’ll be able to avoid triggers more effectively and understand which situations could affect your mental wellbeing.
Food for Thought
I recently wrote a piece for Trove Wellness on the topic of eating to support and enhance your mental health:
“Many foods can increase our mental health and should be strategically included in our diets to assist with alertness, memory and mood. This is especially critical now because of the fear and anxiety which is induced by the lockdown. Prioritize your mental health and mind, we are shaped by our thoughts and the happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.”
Negative thoughts happen to everyone. It’s an unfortunate part of life.
When your negative thoughts start impacting your perception of yourself and the world around you, they create unnecessary stress and anxiety. When your negative thoughts are consistent and unyielding, they could cause you to become exhausted, depressed, unmotivated, frustrated and angry.
Replacing negative thought patterns with positive ones seems easy enough, but you do need to be consistent. Try implementing some of these strategies into your daily routine to help counteract the cycle and maintain a positive, healthy mindset.