Why You Should Elevate Your Mental Health and How

Do you prioritize your mental health? If your mental health isn’t one of the areas that comes to mind, consider moving it to one of your top priorities, elevate it. Here’s the short answer of why it’s important. When we work on our mental health, we improve all of the other areas of our lives. When we emotionally and mentally operate effectively and efficiently, other well-being pieces fall into place. Some pieces that are positively impacted are, sleep, problem solving capability, relationships, and productivity increases. All a ripple-effect benefit of elevating mental wellness. The benefits are truly endless.

Here are a few ideas of how you can focus on your mental health

What to intentionally focus on

Spend a few minutes a day addressing your mind. What areas need the most attention? Is it sleep? Anxiety? When was the last time that you did self-care? Focus on the area that needs it the most, not to feel overwhelmed, because there could be several areas that you feel could use love. Once there’s a rythm or a habit created for that particular area, move onto another area. Be gracious to yourself through the process of addressing the area, it might take some time and it’s hard work.

How to make it happen

Here are two ways to help you with planning that focus time

Way one

The first, is scheduling half an hour to an hour per day. The second, is sprinkling in the work throughout the day. The option of scheduling it in works well for people who like having structure or who are likely to procrastinate. Write it in your planner, including the time you will work on it and set an intention of what you’re going to specifically work on. – An attainable short-term goal. When the time comes, aim to do it for half an hour to an hour. Afterwards, notice or be mindful of the benefits of your achievement. Do what is helpful to you. If you’re having trouble thinking of something, reflect back to your past to see if maybe you did something helpful then, that you can apply to now.

What it could look like

This could look like journaling about your day or a problem that you have. Taking a long bath, free of distractions, and reflecting on the highlights of your day. When you wake up in the morning, thinking about something that you’re looking forward to in the near future. Participating in relaxing yoga before bed. Having a mindful meal.

Way two

The second way, sprinkling it in throughout the day, looks a little different and is go-with-the-flow. This strategy might work for someone who has a busy schedule or would like to see it organically integrated throughout their day.

What it could look like

This could look like doing a three minute breathing or mindfulness exercise while doing a simple tasks, such as household cleaning. Working on a gratitude list, jotting down what you’re grateful for as they come to you throughout the day. Stretch and do mindful movement when you’ve been sitting for too long. – When at a desk-job, get up from your chair once every 45-90 minutes for 5-10 minutes.

Doing mental wellness activities will be wonderful. Try both planning strategies, or other ways that you can think of, to see what fits best.

Elevate your mental health to reap all the great benefits. Start by identifying what needs the most attention and then figure out how to make it happen. Is it better for you if you schedule it or if you sprinkle it in throughout the day? Once you have a basic plan, just do it. There are multiple strategies and ways to improve your mental wellness. Do the ones that work for you consistently. Lastly, fully enjoy the benefits and continue the good work.

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What Advice Would You Give Your Past Self?

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your past self?

Answer this question by either journaling it out or writing your past self a letter.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your past self?

Advice to myself

• Don’t stress over the small stuff.

• Don’t worry about what others think about you.

• Some things tend to work themselves out.

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Wise Mind: ACCEPTS Skill (Distress Tolerance from DBT)

Wise Mind: ACCEPTS

The ACCEPTS acronym has skills that helps keep you busy and distracted when you would typically be preoccupied by a crisis. It is easy to dwell on what is going wrong, by focusing on the ACCEPTS behaviors, you can get yourself through hard times.

The acronym

A: Activities
C: Contributing
C: Comparisons
E: Emotions
P: Pushing Away
T: Thoughts
S: Sensations

Activities

Activities keep you busy and your mind off of problems and behaviors. The behaviors that you are focused on are healthy and helpful.

To start practicing this skill, write a list of activities you enjoy when life feels better. If you’re unsure or need ideas, go online and search for activity lists.

Add the pleasant activities into your schedule and mindfully do them.

Choose an activity and enjoy it now!

Contributing

Contribute to others. It is a way to take your mind off of your own problems, to feel connected and useful, and to create positive feelings.

Examples

Do a favor; acts of kindness; write a thank you note; bake brownies to share; volunteer locally.

Create a list of ways to contribute to others and begin right away.

Afterwards, journal about the experience, reflecting on your thoughts and feelings.

Comparisons

Draw healthy comparisons between yourself and others. There are people living without necessities, who have gone through tragedies, or who have tremendous obstacles to overcome. Remembering that other people are also suffering, often in worse ways, allows for you to gain perspective of what you’re going through. This perspective also increases your feelings of gratefulness.

Emotions

Emotions arise from the things we do. You can change your emotion by changing your behavior.

When you’re depressed, do behaviors that lift your spirits. When you’re anxious, do ones that are relaxing. When angry, do ones that are calming.

Check-in with your emotions in the moment, and if you find that you want change, then choose to participate in a healthy behavior to change your emotion.

Pushing away

Pushing away means that you decide to revisit the problem at another time. Imagine putting the problem in a box, locking the box, and placing it on a shelf for later.

Thoughts

You cannot think about two things at once, so choose to direct your attention to the most helpful thought.

Some ideas to try, crossword puzzles, read an interesting book, have an intriguing conversation, watch an action movie.

Do something to occupy your thoughts away from depressive thoughts, worries, and problems.

Practice in the moment.

Sensations

Direct yourself with healthy sensations.

Things to try, dance to loud music, eat a sour lemon slice, take a hot or cold bath, smell a strong scent, like peppermint.

These things wake up your senses in an invigorating way. Notice any changes in your experience.

Another idea, create a sensations toolkit, using your favorite ways to wake up your sensations. Use your tools.

Resource

Lane Pederson, PsyD, LP, DBTC

Occoquan Trail, Bull Run Regional Park, Fairfax County, VA

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Mindfulness Walk Activity

Mindfulness and walking are highly beneficial to your mental health, especially when you do them routinely. Try combining them! Go on a walk. You can walk inside (yes, it still works) or outside, done alone, while walking the dog, or with another person. – just don’t have a conversation with the other person while doing this activity because it takes away the point. No headphones with music or audiobooks. Engage your mindfulness skills and enjoy!

A little about mindfulness

To put mindfulness into action

BE AWARE of what is going on around you physically. Increase your awareness of experience.

PAY ATTENTION by watching, listening and considering the environment. This is what is naturally occurring.

What you see, hear, smell; feeling the ground with your feet as you walk; noticing your breathing; listening to your dog pant; noticing the shadows on the ground; watching the clouds slowly reshape; noticing the texture of the floor; noticing shades of lighting; smell of a candle; ticking of a clock.

REMAIN IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. If you become distracted by thoughts or emotions, accept that you have them, don’t use judgment, and then release them to return to the present moment. You may try to visualize releasing thoughts and emotions. – like the wind blowing them away.

CONSIDER AND BE CURIOUS about the moment and environment in a non-judgmental manner.

Are you “mind full” or “mindful”?

Let me know if you have any questions.

Happy walking!

Learn more about mindfulness here.

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Valuing Your Time

Have you ever wished that you had more time for something or someone? There isn’t time for everything and we don’t know how much time we have, so we must respect time and prioritize the things that matter most. Increase your happiness and gratitude by using your time wisely.

Work is a huge priority for most people, but what about family and friends? Set work aside and arrange a weekly date night with your spouse. Visit someone who you value having in your life, but haven’t seen in a while. Call someone you used to be close with. Enjoy a monthly outing with your family. Spend more time with the people you value because the benefits are great.

When we don’t value time and prioritize the most meaningful things, we could end up feeling regret or grief. The opportunity was missed and it can’t be re-done. A friend or family member could become ill and unable to spend time with you like you wanted. There could be a friend or family death and you wish that you spoke with them more. Don’t wait for opportunities, take action, because even though you can heal from regret and grief, you should take advantage of the present time.

Do you have something that you’ve always wanted to do before you die? We don’t know how much time we have, so it is best to take action now. Travel to National Parks that you’ve always wanted to visit. Write that book that you’ve been thinking about for years. Apply to be a contestant on your favorite game show. Go see the world’s largest waterfall. Learn, grow and follow your dreams. Maybe involve the people you care about in your goals.

Work will always be there, but time for the things and people who matter most will not. Don’t miss opportunities to do what you truly value in life, create the opportunity yourself. Spend your time wisely, it will increase happiness and gratitude, you (and others) will be glad that you did.

Gerard Hiking Trail, Oil Creek State Park, PA

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