We all know that if we don’t take care of our cars with regular maintenance, we may find ourselves veering off the road at some point when we least expect it. We all know, too, that we have to take care of our physical bodies with regular exercise, healthy eating, and sleeping. But many of us take our mental health for granted, when, actually, our minds need to be managed properly as well. That means honing our skills to manage our thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
Re-examining and adjusting our mental health management is a great way to start the new year. Ask yourself:
Am I Practicing Good Thinking Habits?
It’s easy to let your natural biases skew your thinking. You’re human, and everyone does it. But the key is to try to think as accurately as possible and not allow your brain to be seduced by thoughts you wish would be true. To keep your mind open and astute. To make sure your brain is attuned to the truth as much as possible, however unpleasant the truth may be. To think critically, it’s important to step back and ask yourself if what you’re thinking makes good common sense. Collect the data and examine it before you make a judgement.
If your thinking is distorted, you will, over time, suffer psychological pain. The first thing to do is to be aware of how you are thinking. What kinds of thoughts enter your mind under various circumstances? For example, when approaching a person at work, do you automatically feel inadequate? This can affect not only your relationship but your performance on the job. So it’s time for a maintenance check. Is this inadequacy an old habit that you need to adjust to be more mentally healthy?
Are there other thoughts you have that are habits rather than objective truths? Can you be objective in observing them? Are they solid facts or speculations? If, as you observe your thoughts, you realize they are not grounded in reality, can you let them go? And practice doing so? Over time, you will form a habit of making dispassionate decisions so that you think more accurately.
Am I Accepting My Emotions at Face Value?
I have a friend whose father accused her, with disgust, of being emotional. But the fact is, there is nothing at all wrong with being emotional. Emotions color our lives and make things interesting. Emotions are part of the data set we use to make decisions, and rightfully so. Emotions are a wonderful component of the human experience. Emotions like fear help keep us safe. Emotions like love make life worth living.
So if you try to deny your emotions because your father accused you of being too emotional, you are telling yourself not to feel what you’re feeling. Denying your emotions is denying who you are, which is not good for your mental health. But neither is it good to let your emotions take over. To assume that your emotions are the only truth and to let them drive your behavior without any examination. Emotions can overwhelm you with distorted information, and it’s not a good idea to act without all the facts. So, it’s not a good idea to let your emotions rule you, just as it’s not a good idea to deny them. Accept that, once again, you are human, and you have emotions. Learn to accept them with objectivity.
Am I Enduring Short-Term Pain to Get Long-Term Gain?
It’s tempting to dodge the difficult, avoid conflicts, deny that problems exist. But the more you live, the more you discover that the sooner you address your problems, the sooner you can get back to living a better life. You will have challenges throughout life, and the best way to overcome them is to meet them head-on and deal with them. Even if it means unpleasantness in the near-term.
When you avoid problems, they often get worse, and that makes it harder and more painful to rectify things later on. And all the while you are avoiding, you are probably feeling anxious and distressed. If you want to change the way you feel, you need to change your actions.
It takes effort and commitment to keep yourself mentally healthy—it’s not just a one-time goal. Like physical health, mental health needs attending to. The new year is a great time for a tune-up.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact