Mental health. It’s a tricky thing. We can’t see it, we can’t really define it, but when it’s there, it’s there. It’s a constant battle between yourself and yourself, and when not acknowledged you slowly let these feelings contain you. What is mental health? How does it start and how does our brain work when it starts to anchor in a sneaky thought?
What are emotions and feelings?
Emotions and feelings are both responses to circumstances. How we respond to different situations is completely individual and can be based on a variety of things such as our personality, past traumas, anxiety, or habitual thought patterns. This is why feelings are such a tricky thing because nobody will experience the exact same emotional response to the same situation. Why is this important to know? Because when you understand why and what triggers your feelings, it’s easier for you to stop yourself in your track and go like “ok queen (or king), this is why you’re feeling this way”.
Thoughts becomes habits.
I’m the shit. I’m the absolute bombshell of the world. People should feel blessed to be breathing the same air as me. Those are the words I want you to burst out to yourself every morning. And when you feel in doubt, I want you to repeat them even louder! Our thoughts are sneaky, and they are shapeable. A bit too easy to shape, to be honest. Once you start a thought pattern it stays to grow and all of a sudden you’ve created new connections in your brain to either the positive or the negative.
It’s hard to tell someone with negative thoughts and poor mental health to “think positive”. “Fake it until you make it”. Honestly, if you’re not begging for a slap across the face it might be the worst thing you can say to a person in a bad mental state. So how can you break free from current negative thought patterns?
Recognize them. You feel out of shape, maybe both mentally and physically. You’re isolating yourself or slipping back into bad habits. The first step is always to recognize this. And become okay with the fact that you’re not on your a game right now.
2-minute window. A thought lives in your brain rent-free for around 2 minutes. What you decide to do with this thought after that is up to you. You can either let it sit there and consume you or you can switch it to a setting completely different. Even if you don’t believe it as you start thinking it, keep it for another 2 minutes and let that thought let loose in your brain instead.
Journal to trick your subconscious brain.
I preach journaling from the bottom of my heart. It’s extremely underrated and everyone should be doing it like two years ago already. I’m not talking about writing a 6-page essay about your day every night, but take 5 minutes every morning and write down how you are feeling and what you want from the day ahead. While you’re at it, add in some positive affirmations as well! Something simple as this subconsciously sets your brain up for a successful day. If you wanted your day to be filled with laughter, you’re more likely to actually bust out a few laughs during that day.
Identify your triggers.
Our brain is smart. It remembers situations that caused anxious feelings and will hold on to them with all its power. Why? Basic survival. If dogs trigger your anxiety the brain will continue to feel this just so you should stay alert in case you know, you die. Triggers can come from anywhere and be literally anything. It’s not an easy thing to identify these, especially if you’ve been living with them for a long time. It all comes down to awareness. As soon as you can identify your trigger it’s easier for you to start the work to rewire your brain’s emotional response. As mentioned before, our brain is very flexible and shapeable – in fancier terms known as brain plasticity. Knowing this you have the power to shape your brain into new habits, new thoughts, and a new state of being. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s doable.
Why does the brain hold onto negative thoughts?
It’s easier to be anxious than to walk on happy-go-lucky clouds every day. We remember negative situations better than positive ones. Why is it so hard to just be happy? As I briefly mentioned before, it’s all about survival. Humans have evolved through a lot of stressful environments where our survival literally depended on how well we adapted to these environments. Because of this, we needed to know what killed our mates, and this has shaped our brain to hold on to anxiety, just as a survival mechanism. Today we don’t need this as much since we’re not as likely to be eaten by a bear. Instead, we attach anxiety to other habits such as work, social gatherings, past traumas, you name it. It sucks, I know. But, this can also be a comforting thing to know. When anxiety strikes it’s just your brain trying to keep you alive.
It’s okay to not be okay.
Mental health is no joke and if you’re seriously feeling very down and have been for a while, please talk to a professional. Today it’s more common than we think that people are walking around with anxiety and depression every day. The perfect filtered social media and the pressure to be so damn great all the time is not making our current environment an easy place for our brains. Turning to help is not a sign of weakness, actually the opposite. We need to normalize even the “smallest” mental issues as serious. Go talk to someone. Start talking about mental health amongst your friend group, and if they think you’re lame for doing this – tell them to fuck off. In a polite, friendly manner of course.