‘Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are. It solely relies on what you think’- Buddha
Mental health is something I think some of us take for granted. Some of us don’t look after our bodies as well as we should, therefore putting our mental health at risk. Sometimes we can’t figure out why we are feeling so glum and run down, but usually it boils down to how well you look after yourself and how much time you take out for yourself just to relax. Although some of us are not necessarily suffering from depression, it is important to lead a healthy and happy lifestyle in order to prevent this. Unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, stressful jobs, lack of decent weather and many other things you wouldn’t even consider- contribute to having an effect on our moods, sometimes resulting in long term depression or periods of feeling down in the dumps.
It’s too easy to let day to day life cause anxieties and stress which results in unnecessary long term problems for us all. Although it may seem difficult, it is possible to get in to a mindset where you can control these unwanted thoughts. Although, when you are not in the best frame of mind, it may seem like these thoughts are like quick sand and you are sinking further and further beneath. It’s important to realise that these thoughts can be controlled and believe that you have the ability to control them yourself.
I, myself have struggled with anxiety for the past few years- I regularly worried about what people thought of me, I often thought I wasn’t good enough for certain jobs or people, I obsessed over what I didn’t have instead of what I did have. The list was endless and I was a very unconfident person for a very long time. There came a point where I realised I couldn’t continue to live my life with this way of thinking anymore and knew it was about time I took control of my thought process, as this was the element that controlled my happiness.
I first took control by cutting out all negative attributes in my life. Anything at all that made me unhappy, I let go of. And although the thought of letting go of something you are used to may seem hard – it is difficult in the short term – it benefits you in the long term. Cutting out negativity can be as little as not eating as much junk food, not having as many cigarettes, or even skipping a night out on the booze to get your liver and your head a rest. Basically, it’s just cutting out or cutting down on things that you know are bad for you. The changes you can make can even be as big as cutting ties with an annoying friend, changing your job or taking up a new hobby.
Once cutting out the negativity, you automatically begin to feel better. You suddenly stop actively seeking happiness and realise that it is right there in front of you.
Another great way to improve your mental health or to keep away anxieties is to do yoga and/or meditation. Yoga involves breathing techniques and a wide range of bodily postures- one main reason why yoga is practiced is for relaxation and for the improvement of health. Yoga influences relaxation which helps lower the stress hormone ‘cortisol’. Yoga is a brilliant exercise that helps mind and body, as the breathing techniques used in yoga help slow down the heart rate and pulse, resulting in de-tensing muscles. Yoga can also help to improve sleep, help blood pressure, improve digestion, reduce fatigue, improve asthma, reduce insomnia, improve physical health/posture and beat depression. Yoga helps us focus on the current moment, helping people have a more positive outlook on life. Yoga isn’t time consuming- you can feel the difference just after a twenty minute workout.
The best way to start practising yoga is to become familiar with the poses from yoga books or videos (many clips can be found on YouTube). If practiced on a regular basis, you will remember the poses off the top of your head resulting in easier practise as you’re not trying to look at a book or a screen at the same time. I find now that I can practise yoga without having to watch or read anything which helps the practice to be a lot more peaceful and I can go at my own pace and work to my own abilities. The best way to practice yoga is to set the right environment by having dimly lit lights, incense/candles and calming music. Yoga mats, straps and foam pads will help certain poses also and help ease your body into adjusting to these poses.
Meditation is also a brilliant way to aid relaxation and help gain a better way of thinking- meditation trains the mind to clear and creates a better sense of well being. The result from gaining relaxation from meditating helps clear anxieties and stress. It is important to keep up a regular routine of meditation in order to keep a clear and healthy mind.
Meditating just five minutes every other day would help clear the mind and improve mental health, it can be done even just sitting at your desk in work or on the bus but of course you want to make sure you don’t get disturbed.
People are too quick to go to the doctors when they can feel life dragging them down, and personally I think doctors are too quick to prescribe anti-depressants. Of course in serious situations then this would the best thing to do. But I think it’s important, especially in younger people to see if you can overcome the shadows just by taking control of your own thoughts and your own happiness.
I’ve witnessed close friends and family overcome tough times just by putting their life in order and finding peace without having to go on any type of medication. The main thing is about having the belief that you can do it all by yourself- it is surprising just how powerful the mind can be. If you have the belief, patience, and the determination- you can achieve almost anything.
Everybody is different and while it is possible for some people to regain control with the good practices detailed in this article, others are more seriously suffering with mental health issues and need medical support. If you feel that you need help for depression, feeling low or unwell then you can get help and advice at Mind http://www.mind.org.uk/