This is my second post about active self-care. This time, we are focused on mental self-care, having already considered the physical. Here are 5 ways you can take care of your mind, encourage positive thoughts and dreams, and reduce your worries.
- Keep a gratitude journal
We are way too prone to dwelling on the negative, hard parts of our lives, that it is sometimes hard to remember to be thankful for the things in our lives which are good. Gratitude journalling is an incredible easy but effective way of focusing on the positive parts of life.
Grab yourself a little notebook, and every day, or at least on the days when you’re feeling a bit drained, write a list of all the things you are grateful for. I like to put the date at the top of each page when I do this so I can look back later and remember all the loveliness.
What you write in your list is up to you! You might be grateful one day for some general things, like good health, or a family – other days it might be smaller things like the great cake you ate at lunch, or the fact you got home earlier than usual.
Try gratitude journalling when you get home for the day, or before bed, or in the morning – and see which time works best for you. At any time of day, its a practice that helps you to feel positive about the small, but beautiful things in your life, and therefore less focused on things that might have gone wrong.
- Get a one line a day/question a day book
I got my boyfriend the one line a day book a while back, and he then bought me the Q&A book for my last birthday. Safe to say we are both now addicted.
These books are 5 year journals that you can buy pretty cheap in a big bookstore or online (see the links below). The one line a day journal asks you to write a few sentences about your day, each day, for 5 years. The Q&A one does the same but instead asks you a different question each day of the year, ranging from the quirkier and funny, to the deep and profound.
The beauty of these is that once you’ve done it for a year, you will be able to see each day what you were doing or feeling on the same day 1, 2, 3 and 4 years ago! I’m only on my first year, but I cannot wait to see how I change my answers to certain questions up until 2021 – and then I’ll probably have to get a new one!
Using such a book gives you a chance to take a minute to reflect each day, and really question how you’re feeling, or what you achieved that day.
- Write worry lists
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, it is often difficult to understand exactly why you’re feeling that way. There are usually so many factors behind these feelings – big and small. We are sometimes unable to speak in a comprehensible way, even to those we are close to, about our worries.
Next time you feel this way, a great way to care for your troubled mind is to write down a list of ALL your worries. I really mean all, even those that seem so insignificant and silly that you’d feel ridiculous telling anyone else about. Get them all down on paper, and hopefully as you do, you’ll feel your mind get lighter.
Use the writing as a kind of brain dump – get all those worries, anxieties, fears out of your mind. You can even try writing a worry list when you aren’t particularly anxious at the time, just to maintain a calm mind.
To take this practice to the next level – when you have your list, try writing out a few practical steps for each worry that you could do to make yourself feel better. Obviously, some worries won’t have an obvious, easy response. The step for some might be to simply think about it another time. But others will be much easier to help. Be realistic, be practical and be mindful as you do this.
- Switch off
Our phones and other screens are such a big distraction; taking up an awfully large portion of our free time, and not necessarily always being used in a way that is beneficial for our mental health.
The easiest way to ensure our screens are not damaging your mindset is to simply switch them off. Now, this clearly isn’t possible all the time – we need our screens for work, for a social life, for discovery and fun and Googling random things – they are super useful! But try it for a couple of hours a day, maybe while you’re occupied with a task, and definitely try it for the hour or so before you go to bed.
Don’t be afraid also to mute group conversations or mark messages as unread if you don’t feel like replying just yet. There is so much unnecessary pressure on us to respond to things immediately even when they really aren’t urgent! If you mute a chat for a while, you are able to remove that pressure from your mind and simply dip back into the conversation when you feel ready and happy to reply.
Your mind will thank you for the break from distraction!
If you are someone who thinks meditation involves sitting cross-legged for hours at a time, listening to the birds sing – think again. You can meditate in your bed, while walking, or even on your lunch break at a desk. It’s all about letting go and listening to your thoughts.
Whenever you try to meditate, make sure you are in a relatively quiet place, and feel comfortable. Close your eyes, or focus on one item nearby. Take deep, regular breaths and think only about your breathing. Allow thoughts, positive or negative, to come to the front of your mind. When they do, acknowledge them and do nothing else. Just let yourself be.
Maybe you want to try to make meditation into a routine – every morning or every evening for example. Or perhaps you just want to try it when you’re feeling a little tense. Either way, it’s a fantastic method of keeping your mind clear, and allowing your brain to kind of self-regulate a little.
Hopefully these 5 methods of mental self-care keep your mind feeling calm, present and orderly.