Mental health is a recognition of our psyche and our psychological wellness. It is a way of looking at the conditions of the mind and relating to the mind. And when we look at the psyche, we also need to consider the health of the mind. In an acknowledgement of our state of mind, we will understand and have an awareness of our mental health.
In the same way, as we take care of our physical health, the body. We would ensure that we get enough sleep, eat well, exercise and have adequate rests. It is now becoming more apparent that we would benefit from taking care of our mental health, the mind. It would ensure that we are mindful of reducing stress tension on the grey areas of the brain, improving planning, helping with problem-solving abilities, and enhancing concentration and mental clarity.
As a therapist, I work with clients to connect the body, feelings and mind to promote wholeness within an individual. However, in this month’s blog, I want to address the mental aspect of wellness and to be more aware of your mental health.
Mental health has been a challenge that has recently spiked on the global scale since the pandemic. It has long been a part of Western societies since the birth of psychiatry, and possibly longer than that. Mental disturbances are a challenge that poses psychological and physical discomfort in the individual. Mental disturbances can range from worrying about your loved ones to concern for their safety and welfare. It is any disturbances that are constructed in the mind. The longer we are exposed to these disturbances, the more problem it poses on our mental health. Thus, our mental wellness depends on the way we think and how we construct our inner world.
Not only that, there are some judgements towards people with mental health issues as well. There are also prejudices or preconceived ideas that people may have towards someone with mental health problems, not necessarily based on reasons or experiences. These individuals’ subjective experiences can often do more harm than good to any person experiencing mental illness or disorder. Within the awareness of mental health problems, I will also address the stigma behind mental health awareness.
To understand mental health further, I want to begin by highlighting the four primary types of mental illnesses. They include:
- Anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, extreme fears and phobias.
- Depressive disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and mood disorder.
- Personality disorders such as maladaptive behaviour, self-defeating and self-destructive behaviour.
- Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and psychosis.
These four major types of mental illnesses extend to other psychological conditions, potentially leading to poor mental health, especially over a long period of suffering. Our mental wellness includes all aspects of the mind, including our thinking, thought processes, the mental construct, perception, psychological framework, and social wellbeing.
The influences of those around us shaped our sense of Self. The conditioning and the way we were brought up will impact the mental aspect of our health. If we experienced a positive, nurturing, and supportive environment, we are likely to foster a healthy mental state. But, if our experience was negative, hostile and unsupportive, we are likely to have an adverse mental state. This can worsen our cognitive processes and further distort our inner view of the world.
“A negative mind will never give you a positive thoughts.” – Buddha.
Furthermore, when our mental being is fragile with a negative experiential outlook, we can become sensitive to experiences with others. As our feelings are heightened, our emotions might get the better of us. Before we become aware of our mental state, we have just control of our behaviour and action. As we internalised the external problem, we often conclude that we overreacted to a situation. However, that may not be the case. But, it is possible that, in the heat of the moment, our outburst was confused with it being exaggerated or misinterpreted as dramatic. As the individual suffering from mental health picks up these unhelpful cues, it can be read as insensitive or judgmental. This seemingly minor engagement can have a detrimental effect on a person with mental sensitivity.
Mental health awareness is the ability to develop compassion for ourselves and our mental construct as well as the mental capability of another. It is also about treating ourselves and others the way we would like to be treated. It is about watching our thoughts and thinking well of ourselves and others. Having an awareness of our thought processes give us realisation. In the realisation, we become compassionate with ourselves and how our mind works things out.
Here are my helpful tips on how to be more aware of your mental health wellbeing.
- Watch your mental construct
Watch your internal self-talk. Watch how you talk to yourself, including the use of your language. Listen to how your mind makes sense of the situation, how you read things, and how it is constructed in your mental images.
For example, if you see yourself sitting in the waiting room, tapping your feet. The underlying observation might be that your behaviours indicated nervousness or impatience, depending on what follows your thoughts. Anxiety, for instance, is a construct that follows a set of behaviour and thought pattern.
- Observe your inner feelings
“It is easier to see the faults in others and blame others than it is to look within and see our own faults.” – Buddha.
Observe your internal feelings and emotions in response to your behaviour and initial thoughts. Thoughts give rise to our internal state, which drives our behaviour and action. If you can recognise your inner feelings in response to your thinking, you can notice that you can own your emotions. Sometimes, we blame others or the situation for how it makes us feel, but if you are truly honest with yourself, you will see that your thoughts about the situation or person trigger your emotions and feelings. Isn’t it time you take responsibilities for how you think and feel?
In the above example, observing your inner feeling might include seeing what it is about waiting that is anxiety-provoking for you. Are you feeling nervous about the meeting, which then led you to tap your feet nervously?
“Be patient, be yourself, judge nothing and everything will come to you when the time is right.” – Buddha.
- Notice your response to a situation
Notice your response to a situation or person. Notice your behaviours and reaction to a situation or person can help bring awareness to mental processes. Your response to others or condition depends on your subjective experiences. However, your personal experiences are not the whole of you. It is only a part of you as a whole. Having an understanding of your behaviour will you help maintain control of yourselves and your behaviour. It also projects confidence to others in the way you remained in control of yourself. If you cannot control yourself or your response, how do you expect others to respond to you?
- Check your unconscious gain
“Appreciate what is and expect nothing because life is what is it.” – Buddha.
Unconscious gain is a complex mental process that the individual has no awareness of the self-serving proceeding activities. It is often an attempt to reduce anxieties and distress within oneself. Can you be honest with yourself and admit your unconscious gain? If you can be honest with yourself, you can begin to have a relationship with yourself. Being honest with yourself means acknowledging your behaviour, feelings and action. Can you recognise that you may have overreacted in a situation because you did not like being accused of something? Can you admit that you may have lost control in an attempt to defend yourself in an argument? Realising your unconscious gain behind your behaviours will help you understand your needs.
In the above example, the unconscious gain behind tapping your feet while in the waiting room might be your way of alleviating the inner nervousness.
“It is better to conquer yourself than win other’s battle. Then the victory is reward that no one can take away from you.” – Buddha.
- Reframe your belief system
Reframing your belief system is simply a way to think differently about your belief system. It is about changing your mindset to mindful. It is a way of challenging your thoughts, beliefs and then change them. It is adaptive and flexible thinking.
A belief system is a mindset that you have established or learned based on lived experiences. It is your mind-set-in-stone. It is a rigid belief about something or someone. In contrast, mindfulness is a conscious and flexible approach to thinking. If you can challenge your idea, you can begin to improve your thought processes, leading to mental wellness.
Per the above example, you might have negative experiences of waiting for something or someone. Your negative experience might include negative feelings such as rejection. Thus, this might have given rise to a mindset that waiting will lead to bad news or bad feelings. If this was the belief, you could ask yourself, what evidence do you have that indicated that waiting (this time round) means that you will also receive bad news? Where is it written or documented that waiting equates to rejection? Remember that just because you had that bad experiences in the past does not mean that all future outcome will be the same.
Reframing your belief can be difficult if people around you still reinforces the idea. It would help if you have the will (volition) to challenge the thought. If you are struggling with reframing, ask yourself what the benefit of having the belief is? Who is benefiting from the mindset? How is the belief serve you?
“What you believe becomes your reality because the thoughts created in your mind, the mind makes it happens.” – The Law of Belief.
- Challenge yourself to change the way you think
Challenge yourself to change your thinking pattern and find an alternate way to look at things. There is no wrong way to challenge your thoughts. Any form of challenge is the right way, I’d say. One of the easiest ways to challenge yourself is to question yourself—questions like why, what, or how are a great way to get your mind to rethink the problem. Why did I think that waiting here today, at this appointment, means that it will be the same as the last meeting? What makes me think that this appointment will turn out like the last one? How is this meeting the same as the previous?
You are more than your mind. Therefore, you are more than the way you think and what you think. Thinking is just what you happen to do because the brain does not shut up. Thoughts will always intrude on the psyche. But, thought forms, and then they disappear. When you give focus, attention and meaning to the ideas, your thinking and other thought-forms arise to become problematic. It is at this point that having a compassionate mind is helpful. If we fight against our thoughts, we are essentially fighting against ourselves. Let’s face it, why does anyone want that internal struggle.
Like anything in life, the more you practice, the more proficient you will become. Having an awareness of ourselves helps us to know more about our wellness. Plus, learning things about ourselves should be an enjoyable experience. What’s not to like about yourself?
“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose, and you can find it by giving your heart and soul to the journey of discovery.” – Buddha.
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