Mental and emotional wellness
What is mind wellness?
The mind is incredibly complex. By definition, it is described as encompassing all of the mental, intellectual, psychological, and psychic workings of an organism. As such, it has a huge impact on how we feel and experience life overall. Taking the time to balance the mind is so very important to a healthy, connected life.
How to balance my mind
Below are some examples of activities that can help to balance and enhance wellness of the mind. Remember that some of these activities can overlap with physical and spiritual wellness activities, and that's OK! Tuning into what feels like it will be the most beneficial thing for you to do in the moment is what will be most soothing. Loosely defined, these are activities that are helpful in the moment (coping strategies) when we're feeling out of balance, or can be used as ongoing or enhancing foundational practices (self-care) that help cleanse the mind of unhelpful patterns. They're listed in no particular order, and we're continually adding to our list, so please check back regularly.
Find a guided meditation, soothing music, or silence. You can meditate on a specific question, mantra, or feeling you want to achieve.
Find an object that your eye lands on. Notice as many details of the object as you can and name them. This can help bring us respite from spinning thoughts, and can provide interruption to start new thought patterns, even if temporarily. "The tree has really lightly textured bark. There are only a few shades of brown in the bark. The leaves are a medium green. There seems to be new growth on some branches. The branches are swaying with the wind at different speeds."
Cognitive distortions, or thought errors, is something we all experience. It's helpful to know the most common cognitive distortions, and to be able to recognize them and balance them. This takes some time and practice, but it is very helpful in creating more neutrality in our minds by finding more realistic ways to view most all situations.
To interrupt high moments of anxiety or spinning thoughts, look around you and allow your eye to fall on five objects, then count them and name them. (e.g. 1 is the coffee table, 2 is the plant, etc.)
I'm looking forward to...
Find something coming up that you're looking forward to, no matter how big or small. This can help balance our thoughts, especially if we have any all or nothing thinking going on. "I'm looking forward to seeing my family next month. I can't wait to ask my cousin about her new home." "I'm looking forward to watching the rest of my favorite show because it brings me so much joy and stimulates my mind." "I'm looking forward to this weekend and getting out onto my bike. I love the feeling of the wind on my face."
Visualizations are often part of guided meditations, but they can also be used as a separate mindfulness activity. For instance, when a negative thought comes up, we can visualize it coming in as a thought bubble. From there, we can use our creativity to shift that negative thought in whatever way we see fit. We can imagine editing the text in the thought bubble to something more realistic. Or, we can imagine turning the negative thought text to invisible ink or even a pastel color to give it less weight. We can imagine the thought bubble shrinking down to an itty bitty size, and perhaps visualize burying it in the ground below where it can be transmuted by the earth into something beautiful.
A mantra is a word or a simple phrase that is generally repeated or focused upon in meditation or moments of stillness that represent a theme, a state of being, or a centering phrase. Create or search for a mantra that speaks to you. "Though things aren't as I want them at this moment, I am leaning in the direction of what I want." "I trust that things are unfolding for the greatest good of all."
Find a funny joke or video
Spend a few moments looking up a funny joke or video (being mindful of searching for one or two, as this can easily turn into a very long period of time, when we are aiming for it to be around 10 minutes or less). Sharing the joke or video with someone else to bring them some light-heartedness can also be mutually beneficial.
Learn from the past
When we are in a funk or worried about something, it is usually (not always, but usually) something that we've gone through or experienced before. Even if it is just the feeling of discomfort with the unknown, usually we experience that throughout life, just the magnitude and circumstances of a situation is what changes. When we can think back to a previous time when we have felt whatever the discomfort is, and remember that it did eventually end, it can help us in trusting that no emotion lasts forever. (PTSD, posttraumatic stress disorder, can complicate this a bit.)
Find one thing that is going right, or that has gone right today or this week, no matter how big or small, and focus on that. Set an intention to find more things going right, even when there are things that are not. as this helps bring more balance. "I was on time to work each day this week." "I had a nice conversation with my dad recently." "My breakfast this morning was really tasty."
Reading can be a great self-care activity. Finding books or genres that call to you is helpful as well. Whether you enjoy romance novels or reading about spiritual practices around the world, find what feels best for you on a particular day. Also, short stories are a great alternative for folks who may be interested in reading, but find it hard to concentrate for a long while.
Learning to name our emotions is hugely helpful in bringing balance to life. When we can eventually build up the tolerance for allowing the discomfort of some emotions (and which emotions are uncomfortable is different for everyone), they will have less power over us. (And in the bigger picture, this eventually allows us to heal the wound that was pressed upon to produce that emotion--it's not that that emotion will ever go away, but healing the original wound will allow for less disturbance over time, and deeper connection with self.) Again, this takes practice, and can be helpful to work through with a professional, but being able to allow in, and breathe through, uncomfortable emotion can help maintain our overall wellness balance.